Town and Country Planning in The UK

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Town and Country Planning in The UK

Thirteenth Edition This extensively revised edition of retains and enhances its reputation as the bible of British plan

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TOWN AND COUNTRY PLANNING IN THE UK Thirteenth Edition This extensively revised edition of Town and Country Planning in the UK retains and enhances its reputation as the bible of British planning. The book now covers the whole of the UK and gives a critical discussion of current issues and problems. It provides an explanation of the nature of planning, the institutions and organisations involved, the plans and other tools used by planners, the system of controlling development and land use change, and planning policies pursued. Detailed consideration is given to: • • • • • • • • • •

The nature of planning and its historical evolution Central and local government, the EU and other agencies The framework of plans and other planning instruments Development control Land policy and planning gain Environmental and countryside planning Sustainable development, waste and pollution Heritage and transport planning Urban policies and regeneration Planning, the profession and the public

This thirteenth edition has been completely revised to take into account the many changes to the planning system and policies introduced by the Labour government. The devolution of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the new instruments of regional and strategic planning, new area-based urban policy initiatives, innovation in planning for sustainable development and the rapidly expanding role of the European Union in spatial planning and environmental policy are all given comprehensive treatment in the new edition. Each chapter ends with notes on further reading and there are lists of official publications and an extensive bibliography at the end of the book. Barry Cullingworth has held academic posts at the Universities of Manchester, Durham, Glasgow, Birmingham and Toronto and is Emeritus Professor of Urban Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Delaware. Vincent Nadin is Director of the Centre for Environment and Planning and Reader in the Faculty of the Built Environment, University of the West of England, Bristol.


Barry Cullingworth and Vincent Nadin

London and New York

First published 1964 Thirteenth edition published 2002 by Routledge 11 New Fetter Lane, London EC4P 4EE Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada by Routledge 29 West 35th Street, New York NY 10001 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2005. “To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge’s collection of thousands of eBooks please go to” © Barry Cullingworth 1964, 1967, 1970, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1979, 1982, 1985, 1988 © Barry Cullingworth and Vincent Nadin 1994, 1997, 2002 All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Cullingworth, J. B. Town and country planning in the UK / J. Barry Cullingworth and Vincent Nadin.– 13th ed. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. City planning–Great Britain. 2. Regional planning–Great Britain. I. Nadin, Vincent. HT 169.G7 C8 2001 361.6’0941–dc21 2001019932 ISBN 0-203-46256-4 Master e-book ISBN

ISBN 0-203-77080-3 (Adobe eReader Format) ISBN 0–415–21774–1 (hbk) ISBN 0–415–21775–X (pbk)


List of Figures List of Tables List of Boxes Preface List of Acronyms and Abbreviations Internet Resources

xiii xv xvii xix xxi xxxi

1 THE NATURE OF PLANNING Introduction Conflict and Disputes Planning, the Market and the Development Process Rationality and Comprehensive Planning Incrementalism Implementation The British Planning System in Comparative Perspective Accommodating Change Planning Questions Further Reading

1 1 2 3 4 6 7 8 10 11 12

2 THE EVOLUTION OF TOWN AND COUNTRY PLANNING The Public Health Origins The First Planning Act Interwar Legislation The Depressed Areas The Barlow Report The Impact of War The New Planning System The Early Years of the New Planning System Additional New Towns The Rediscovery of Poverty Land Values Entrepreneurial Planning The Environment Road-building Policies

14 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 22 24 24 26 26 27 28



The Countryside The Blair Government 1997–99 Whither Planning? Further Reading Notes

28 29 31 32 33



(A) European Government The Growing Influence of Europe Britain in the EU The European Council The Council of the European Union (Council of Ministers) The European Commission The European Parliament The Committee of the Regions The European Courts The Council of Europe

34 34 34 35 35 37 38 39 39 39

(B) Central Government Modernising Government Organisational Responsibilities The Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions The Department for Culture, Media and Sport The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Executive Agencies The Planning Inspectorate Central Government Planning Functions

40 40 41 41 43 43 45 46 46

(C) Devolved and Regional Government Devolution to Scotland and Wales The Scottish Executive The National Assembly for Wales Northern Ireland Towards Regional Government in England? Regional Development Agencies Funding of the RDAs

50 50 50 51 52 52 54 56

(D) Local Government Reorganising Local Government The English Local Government Review Local Government in Scotland Scottish Local Government and ‘Community Planning’ Scottish Local Government and the Scottish Parliament Local Government in Wales Welsh Local Government and the Welsh Assembly

56 57 57 58 59 59 63 63


Local Government in Northern Ireland The New Greater London Authority Managing Planning at the Local Level The Ethical Local Authority Further Reading Notes 4 THE PLANNING POLICY FRAMEWORK Introduction

64 64 65 68 69 72 76 76

(A) Supranational Planning The Rationale for Planning at the European Scale Spatial Impacts of Community Policy: The Structural Funds and Community Initiatives European Competences in Spatial Planning What is Spatial Planning? The Emergence of Supranational Plans Interreg IIc Convergence of European Planning Systems

77 77 78 80 81 81 84 85

(B) National and Regional Planning National Planning Guidance Regional Planning Guidance

85 85 88

(C) Development Plans Establishing Development Plans 1947–68 Separating Strategy and Tactics from 1968 Evaluation of the 1968 Development Plans Planning in London and the Metropolitan Counties from 1985 The Future of Development Plans Development Plans in England since 1992 Development Plans in Northern Ireland Development Plans in Scotland Development Plans in Wales The Content of Plans The Statutory Procedures and Management of the Plan Process Evaluation of the Impact of the Plan-Led System Zoning Instruments Best Value and Development Plans Further Reading Notes 5 THE CONTROL OF DEVELOPMENT The Scope of Control The Definition of Development The Use Classes Order and the General Development Orders Variations in Northern Ireland and Scotland

92 92 93 95 96 97 98 98 104 105 105 107 111 112 113 114 116 120 120 121 121 126




Special Development Orders Withdrawal of Permitted Development Rights The Planning Application Process The Development Plan in the Determination of Planning Applications Other Material Considerations Good Design Amenity Conditional Permissions Fees for Planning Applications Planning Appeals Call-in of Planning Applications Enforcement of Planning Control Revocation, Modification, and Discontinuance Development by the Crown, Government Departments, and Statutory Undertakers Development by Local Authorities Control of Advertisements Control of Mineral Working Caravans Telecommunications Purchase and Blight Notices Efficiency in Development Control Further Reading Notes 6 LAND POLICIES The Uthwatt Report The 1947 Act The 1954 Scheme: The Dual Land Market The 1959 Act: The Return to Market Value The Land Commission 1967–71 The Conservative Years 1970–74 The Community Land Scheme Planning Agreements and Obligations Planning and Affordable Housing Land Policies in the 1980s Land Availability and Urban Capacity Studies Household Projections New Settlements Green Belts Town Centres and Shopping Vacant and Derelict Land Contaminated Land Scottish Land Reform Further Reading Notes

127 128 128 129 131 131 134 135 136 136 139 141 142 142 143 144 145 147 147 148 149 153 155 160 160 161 162 163 163 164 165 166 168 170 171 174 177 179 184 185 186 188 188 192


7 PLANNING, THE ENVIRONMENT, AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT The Environment Sustainability Agenda 21 in the UK Regional Sustainability Frameworks Local Agenda 21 Environmental Politics and Institutions The Impact of the EU The Environment Agencies BATNEEC, BPEO, and BPM Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Penalties for Pollution Economic Instruments of Environmental Policy Local Environment Agency Plans Clean Air The Water Environment Waste Planning Noise Environmental Impact Assessment and Appraisal Strategic Environmental Assessment Further Reading Notes

196 196 198 200 206 206 207 208 210 210 211 211 211 213 214 215 217 219 221 223 223 226

8 HERITAGE PLANNING Early Actions to Preserve Conservation and Heritage Heritage Responsibilities Archaeology Ancient Monuments Listed Buildings Criteria for Listing Historic Buildings Public Participation in Listing Conservation, Market Values, and Regeneration Conservation Areas World Heritage Sites Historic Parks and Gardens Churches Funding for Conservation of the Historic Environment Preservation of Trees and Woodlands Tourism The Heritage Review Further Reading Notes

231 231 232 233 233 235 236 238 240 242 243 244 244 245 246 247 249 251 252 253




9 PLANNING AND THE COUNTRYSIDE The Changing Countryside National Parks The Broads, the New Forest, and the South Downs Landscape Designations Scottish Designations Northern Ireland Designations The Coast Waterways Public Rights of Way Provision for Recreation Countryside Grant Programmes Nature Conservation Biodiversity Forestry Integrated Countryside Planning Further Reading Notes 10 URBAN POLICIES Introduction Inadequate Housing Private-Sector Homes: From Clearance to Renewal Housing Renewal Areas Public-Sector Homes: Estate Action Housing Action Trusts Scottish Housing The Emphasis on Area Policies The Urban Programme Policy for the Inner Cities and Action for Cities Urban Development Corporations Inner-City Initiatives English Partnerships City Challenge The Single Regeneration Budget The New Deal for Communities and Neighbourhood Renewal Delivering an Urban Renaissance Other Regeneration Experiments and Initiatives Employment, Training, and Enterprise Agencies The European Dimension to Urban Policy Scottish Urban Policies Northern Ireland Evaluation of Urban Policy Further Reading Notes

259 259 262 263 265 267 269 269 271 272 274 275 277 279 282 282 284 287 290 290 291 291 292 294 294 295 296 297 297 298 300 301 303 303 305 306 309 309 310 311 313 314 318 321


11 TRANSPORT PLANNING Mobility and Accessibility The Growth of Traffic Transport Policies The Buchanan Report (1963) Road Policies in the 1980s Assessing the Need for Roads Trunk Roads Review of 1994 Roads Policy since 1997 Integrated Transport Planning: PPG 13, Transport The National Transport Debate and the ‘New Deal’ Implementation of the Integrated Transport Policy Traffic Planning Machinery Regional Transport Strategies Local Transport Plans Traffic Management in London Walking and Cycling Buses and Rapid Transit Railways Freight Traffic Road User and Workplace Parking Charges Green Transport Plans Traffic Calming Parking Restrictions and Standards Scottish Guidance on Transport and Planning European Union Transport Policy Public Attitudes and the Future Further Reading Notes

324 324 324 327 328 329 330 333 333 335 336 337 337 338 338 340 340 341 342 343 343 344 344 345 346 347 347 349 351

12 PLANNING, THE PROFESSION, AND THE PUBLIC Introduction Participation in Planning Local Choice Public Participation in Plan-Making Public Participation in Development Control Rights of Appeal Third Party Interests The Use of Public Inquiries Examinations in Public Local and Unitary Development Plan Inquiries The Human Rights Act Interests in Planning Race and Planning Women and Planning

355 355 355 358 360 361 363 364 364 365 366 369 370 370 372




Planning and People with Disabilities The Planning Profession and Planning Education Access to Information Maladministration, the Ombudsman, and Probity In Conclusion Further Reading Notes

372 373 375 376 379 382 383



Official Publications Planning Policy for England 437 Planning Policy for Northern Ireland 442 Planning Policy for Scotland 443 Planning Policy for Wales 445 European Union Planning Policy and Studies 446 Agencies of Planning 446 The Planning Policy Framework and Development Control 448 Land Policy 450 Housing 452 The Environment 453 Heritage Planning 456 The Countryside 457 Urban Policies 460 Transport 461 Planning, the Profession and the Public 464


Index of Statutes General Index

466 468


3.1 Institutions of the European Union and Spatial Planning 3.2 The Institutional Arrangements for Town and Country Planning in the UK 3.3 Planning Authorities in the UK 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6

36 42 60

Areas Eligible for EU Structural Funds and Selective Regional Assistance The Procedure for the Preparation of Regional Planning Guidance in England The Framework of Planning Instruments in the UK (Based on England) The Planning Policy Framework in England The Planning Policy Framework in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales The Procedure for the Adoption of Development Plans in England

79 91 99 100 103 108

5.1 The Planning Application Process in England 5.2 Planning Applications, Appeals and Decisions in England 1981–82 to 1999–2000 5.3 Best Value Performance Indicators for Planning

122 137 152

6.1 Green Belts in the UK


7.1 The Environmental Impact Assessment Process


8.1 The Procedure for Listed Building Consent in England


9.1 Selected Protected Areas in the UK



3.1 Regional Development Agencies and Regional Chambers


4.1 Structure Plan Areas in England 4.2 Structure Plan Areas in Scotland

101 104

5.1 Summary and Comparison of the Use Classes Order


6.1 Estimated Number of Houses Likely to be Built on Previously Developed Land, England, 1996–2021 6.2 Previous Use of Land Changing to Residential Use, England, 1985–93 6.3 Population Changes Resulting From Within-Britain Migration 1990–91 6.4 Population of the UK 1981–1997, and Projected 2001–2011 6.5 Green Belts, England, 1997 6.6 Green Belts, Scotland, 1999

172 173 176 177 182 182

7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4

201 202 204 218

Sustainability Principles for Territorial Development Main Events in the Growth of the Sustainable Development Agenda The UK’s Strategic Objectives and Headline Indicators for Sustainable Development Estimated Waste Production Recycling and Disposal 1998–99

8.1 Government Departments, Agencies, and Advisory Bodies for Heritage in the UK 8.2 Numbers of Listed Buildings, Scheduled Monuments, Conservation Areas, and World Heritage Sites in the UK, 1999 8.3 Listed Building Categories in the UK

234 236 241

9.1 National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and National Scenic Areas 9.2 Scottish Designations 9.3 Protected Wildlife Areas in the UK, March 2000

267 268 279

10.1 Selected Regeneration and Inner-City Expenditure and Plans 1987–88 to 2001–02 10.2 Urban Development Corporations in England: Designation, Expenditure, and Outputs

299 301

11.1 Number of Vehicles, Great Britain, 1950–1999




11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 11.6 11.7

Proportion of Households with Cars, Great Britain, 1951–1999 Road Traffic, Great Britain, 1950–1999 National Road Traffic Forecasts by Vehicle Type 1996–2031 Passenger Travel by Mode, Great Britain, 1952–99 Rail Systems in Great Britain, 1990/91 to 1997/98 Domestic Freight Transport by Mode, Great Britain, 1953–99

325 326 326 327 328 328


3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6

Government Objectives for Planning, the Enviroment, Transport and Local Government The DTLR’s Planning Responsibilities Labour Party Election Manifesto on Regional Government Guidance and Directions to Regional Development Agencies on Regional Strategies Stirling Listening to Communities Best Value Performance Indicators for Planning

44 45 53 55 62 67

4.1 A Summary of the European Spatial Development Perspective, Final Potsdam Version (1999) 4.2 The Scope of Development Plans in England

82 106

5.1 A Summary of Permitted Development Rights in England 5.2 The Meaning of Section 54A of the 1990 Act 5.3 The Objectives of Sustainable Development for Minerals Planning

127 129 146

6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5

167 168 169 177 183

Planning Gain: The Paignton Zoo Case Planning Obligations: General Policy Lack of Low-Cost Housing Leads to Dismissal of Appeal Household Projections For England to 2016 Green Belt Policy in England

7.1 Planning and Pollution Control 7.2 Definitions of Sustainability 7.3 The Four Objectives of A Better Quality of Life: A Strategy for Sustainable Development for the United Kingdom 7.4 The Long-Term Objectives of the Environment Agencies 7.5 Some of the Key Targets for Waste Management

197 197 203 212 219

8.1 A Sample of the Half-Million Listed Buildings in the UK 8.2 Designation of World Heritage Sites under the Jurisdiction of the UK 8.3 The Significance of Tourism, 1999

240 245 250

9.1 Countryside Policy Framework 9.2 National Parks: Purposes

260 264



9.3 Some Agri-environment Schemes 9.4 The Scottish ‘Rural Framework’

276 283

10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4

Objectives of Urban and Neighbourhood Renewal Policy Selected Recommendations of the Urban Task Force (1999) Sustainable Urban Development in the European Union: A Framework for Action (1999) Assessing the Impact of Urban Policy: Conclusions for Future Urban Policy

304 308 312 317

11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5

The Bypass Demonstration Project Integration of Transport Policy Content of Local Transport Plans: Summary of Selected Topics Impact of Transport Policies in Five Cities The Trans-European Transport Networks

334 336 339 339 347

12.1 World Town Planning Day 12.2 Code of Best Practice in Planning Procedures

374 379


Since 1963, when the first edition of this book was drafted, it has become increasingly uncertain what should be included under the title of Town and Country Planning. At one time it could be largely defined by reference to a limited number of Acts of Parliament. Such a convenient benchmark no longer exists: planning policies are now far broader, and there is general acceptance of the important interrelationships that exist with other spheres of policy (though catering for these has proved exceptionally difficult). It is therefore not easy (or even useful) to define the boundaries of town and country planning. No longer can it be claimed (as it was in the first edition) that this book provides ‘an outline of town and country planning and the problems with which it is faced’. Such an enterprise would now take several volumes. Successive editions have been expanded to incorporate the increasing range of issues with which planners are concerned but, beyond basic statutory and administrative matters, selection has become increasingly arbitrary. The problems have increased with the uncertainties about new features in the legislative landscape, particularly the Human Rights Act. This could have major implications for the planning system. The current edition follows the pragmatic course of updating its predecessors – adding in some parts; deleting in others. The result does not satisfy the authors: too many compromises have had to be made, and too much has had to be omitted. But, like practising planners, the authors have had to operate within constraints which are externally determined.

As in the last edition, each chapter ends with a guide to further reading. These guides are intended to assist students who wish to follow up the discussion in the text. However, they are only an introductory pointer to some of the useful available material: they are in no way comprehensive. Though there may well be a need for an annotated bibliography of planning literature, this is not the place to provide it. The literature is now so vast that the selection of titles for recommendation is inevitably a personal (and, to some extent, an arbitrary) matter. However, it is not, we hope, idiosyncratic, though no doubt other teachers may prefer alternatives. The bibliography has been expanded, and the list of official publications has been completely reorganised by broad subject matter (rather than by source). It is hoped that this will make it more manageable and useful. In the last edition endnotes were omitted, mainly because they seemed to be getting out of hand. However, we were encouraged to reinstate the idea since the notes provide a way of referring to additional useful sources, wider points of interest, and other relevant matter which could not be included in the body of the book without overburdening the text. Acknowledgement is made with sincere thanks to Sally Jones who helped with the figures; to the many people who have supplied information; and to the Editors at Routledge for their patience. Barry Cullingworth Vincent Nadin


Acronyms and abbreviations are a major growth area in public policy. The following list includes all that are used in the text and others that readers will come across in the planning literature. No claim is made for comprehensiveness. AAI ACC ACCORD ACO ACOST ACRE



area of archaeological importance Association of County Councils assistance for coordinated rural development Association of Conservation Officers Advisory Council on Science and Technology Action with Communities in Rural England (formerly Association of Community Councils in Rural England) agricultural development and advice service Association of District Councils Association of European Schools of Planning advanced gas-cooled reactor agricultural improvement scheme Association of London Authorities (now the Association of London Government) Association of London Government Association of Local Authorities in Northern Ireland alternative land use and rural economy Action with Communities in Rural England



Association of Metropolitan Authorities Association of National Park Authorities area of outstanding natural beauty areas of special protection for birds Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland Action Resource Centre area of special advertisement control area of semi-natural woodland area of special scientific interest (Northern Ireland) Agricultural Training Board British Aggregate Construction Materials Industries best available techniques not entailing excessive cost (Environmental Protection Act 1990, s.7(10)) Business in the Community British Nuclear Fuels Ltd best practicable environmental option British Property Federation billion passenger-kilometres best practicable means




British Rail Building Research Establishment British Road Federation British Standards Institution British Tourist Authority British Upland Footpath Trust best value performance indicator British Waterways Board


Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment Not an acronym, but the Welsh name for the Welsh Historic Monuments Agency. The word means ‘to keep’, ‘to preserve’.) Coalfields Area Fund Common Agricultural Policy City Action Team Confederation of British Industry Countryside Commission Countryside Commission for Scotland (now Scottish Natural Heritage) compulsory competitive tendering Countryside Council for Wales comprehensive development area community development project Central Electricity Generating Board Conférence Européen des Ministres d’Aménagement du Territoire (European Conference of Ministers responsible for Regional Planning) Council of European Municipalities and Regions Centre for Environmental Studies chlorofluorocarbon Central Housing Advisory Committee combined heat and power commercial improvement area Chartered Institute of Environmental Health Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy Commission for Integrated Transport Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species






Conference of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (Council of Europe) Centre for Local Economic Strategies certificate of lawfulness of existing use or development certificate of lawfulness of a proposed use or development countryside management system Council for Nature Conservation and Countryside (Northern Ireland) cost–benefit analysis Council of Europe Central Office of Information Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment Control of Pollution Act (1974) Committee of the Regions (EU) Council of Permanent Representatives Council for Small Industries in Rural Areas Community Information System on the State of the Environment (EU) Convention of Scottish Local Authorities compulsory purchase order County Planning Officers’ Society Council for the Protection of Rural England Central Policy Review Staff Campaign (formerly Council) for the Protection of Rural Wales Commission for Racial Equality Countryside Recreation Research Advisory Group Commission on Sustainable Development (UN) Committee on Spatial Development (EU) Centre for Social and Economic Research on the Global Environment Community Support Framework Central Statistical Office Controlled Waste Inspectorate




Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland Délégation à l’aménagement du territoire et à l’action régionale (French national planning agency) design, build, finance, and operate (roads by the private sector) Development Board for Rural Wales development corporation Development control advice note (Northern Ireland) Docklands Consultative Committee Department for Culture, Media and Sport Department of Economic Affairs Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Department of Transport, Environment and the Regions Directorate General (of the European Commission) Department of Health and Social Security derelict land grant derelict land grant advice note development land tax Department of National Heritage Department of the Environment Department of the Environment Northern Ireland Department of Transport (formerly DTp) District Planning Officers’ Society dedicated road infrastructure for vehicle safety in Europe Department of Trade and Industry Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions Drinking Water Inspectorate


environmental assessment European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund education action zone





European Bank for Reconstruction and Development European Community European Conference of Ministers of Transport Economic and Social Council (United Nations) Economic and Social Committee (EU) European Coal and Steel Community European Council of Town Planners European currency unit (no longer in use) European Economic Area (the EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland) European Environmental Agency European Economic Community European Free Trade Association environmental impact assessment European Investment Bank European Investment Fund examination in public environmental impact statement eco-management and audit scheme environmental management area European Monetary Union English Nature English Partnerships educational priority area Environmental Protection Act (1990) economic planning council European Regional Development Fund electronic road pricing environmental statement (UK) environmentally sensitive area European Spatial Development Perspective European Social Fund European Spatial Planning Research Information Database Economic and Social Research Council English Tourist Board English Tourism Council






European Union European Union for Coastal Conservation European Atomic Energy Community employment zone enterprise zone Forestry Authority Forestry Commission Farm and Conservation Grant Scheme Fonds Européan d’Orientation et de Garantie Agricole (European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund) Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance Financial Institutions Group financial management initiative Friends of the Earth Freight Transport Association Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group farm woodland grant scheme farm woodland premium scheme General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade Geological Conservation Review General Development Order Gross domestic product General Development Procedure Order Glasgow Eastern Area Renewal (scheme) general improvement area Greater London Council Greater London Development Plan Government Offices for the Regions: Government Office for the East Midlands Government Office for Eastern Region Government Office for London Government Office for Merseyside Government Office for the North East


Government Office for the North West GO-SE Government Office for the South East GO-SW Government Office for the South West GO-WM Government Office for the West Midlands GO-YH Government Office for Yorkshire and Humberside GPDO General Permitted Development Order HAA HAG HAT HAZ HBF HBMC HC HCiS HERS HIDB


housing action area housing association grant housing action trust health action zone House Builders’ Federation Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission House of Commons Housing Corporation in Scotland Heritage Economic Regeneration Schemes (English Heritage) Highlands and Islands Development Board (now Highlands, and Islands Enterprise) Highlands and Islands Enterprise housing investment programme House of Lords hill livestock compensatory allowances Heritage Lottery Fund high-level waste Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Pollution Her Majesty’s Industrial Pollution Inspectorate (Scotland) Her Majesty’s Nuclear Installation Inspectorate hedgerow management order Her Majesty’s Stationery Office Housing Research Foundation Hazardous Substances Authority Health and Safety Executive Hazardous Waste Inspectorate






Inter-Agency Committee on Global Environmental Change International Atomic Energy Agency inner area programmes Industrial Air Pollution Inspectorate Institut d’aménagement du territoire et d’urbanisme de la région d’Île de France Institution of Civil Engineers International Council on Monuments and Sites information and communications technology Integrated Coastal Zone Management industrial development certificate Institute for European Environmental Policy industrial improvement area intermediate-level waste Institute of Local Government Studies (University of Birmingham) integrated pollution control Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change integrated pollution, prevention, and control Integrated rural development (Peak District) International Society of City and Regional Planners Inland Waterways Association Inland Waterways Amenity Advisory Committee Joint Nature Conservation Committee Journal of Planning and Environment Law (formerly Journal of Planning and Property Law) Local Agenda 21 (UNCED) Local Authority Air Pollution Control Land Authority for Wales local authority waste disposal company London Boroughs Association (now


the Association of London Government) landscape conservation order London Docklands Development Corporation local environmental agency plan local enterprise company (Scotland) local enterprise grants for urban projects (Scotland) local employment and trading systems less favoured area (agriculture) Local Government Association Local Government Commission for England Local Government Management Board low-level waste local nature reserve living over the shop local planning authority London Planning Advisory Committee local strategic partnership London Strategic Policy Unit local transport plan local transport strategy (Scotland) locally unwanted land use London Waste Registration Authority Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Monuments at Risk Survey metropolitan country council Manual of Environmental Assessment (for trunk roads) marine environmental high-risk area Member of the European Parliament Ministry of Housing and Local Government management information system for ministers Ministry of Local Government and Planning multi-modal study marine nature reserve






Ministry of Defence mineral planning authority minerals planning guidance note Metropolitan Planning Officers Society Manpower Services Commission Ministry of Town and Country Planning National Agricultural Centre Rural Trust National Audit Office National Air Quality Strategy national roads information system new approach to road appraisal National Assembly for Wales National Biodiversity Network National Coal Board National Coal Board Opencast Executive Nature Conservancy Council National Committee for Commonwealth Immigrants Nature Conservancy Council for Scotland (now Scottish Natural Heritage) New commitment to regeneration National Council of Voluntary Organisations New Deal for Communities non-departmental public body noise exposure category National Economic Development Council National Economic Development Office National Environment Research Council non-fossil fuel obligation non-governmental organisation Natural heritage area (Scotland) National Heritage Memorial Fund Nuclear Installations Inspectorate Northern Ireland Office Nuclear Industries Radioactive Waste Executive



national nature reserve national park authority National Planning Forum national planning guideline (Scotland) national planning policy guideline (Scotland) National Rivers Authority national road traffic forecasts (GB) National scenic area (Scotland) nitrate-sensitive area the nomenclature of statistical territorial units; designates levels of regional subdivision in the EU nitrate-vulnerable zone new town development corporation Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Organisation for European Economic Cooperation Office of the National Lottery Official Journal of the European Communities Office for National Statistics Office for Official Publications of the European Communities Office of Population Censuses and Surveys (now part of ONS) Planning Advisory Group (1965) Property Advisory Group planning advice note (Scotland) policy action team Permitted Development Order potentially damaging operation (in a site of special scientific interest) permitted development right Political and Economic Planning (now the Policy Studies Institute) Private Finance Initiative Planning Inspectorate Planning Inquiry Commission public local inquiry priority partnership area (Scotland) planning policy guidance note




polluter pays principle planning policy statement (Northern Ireland) programmes for rural initiatives and developments (Scotland) Property Services Agency Policy Studies Institute passenger transport authority passenger transport executive Planning and Transport Research and Computation polyvinyl chloride pressurised water reactor quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation renewal area Royal Automobile Club regional aggregates working parties river basin management plan rural community council Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England Radiochemical Inspectorate road construction unit regional development agency rural development area Rural Development Commission regional development grant rural development programme regional enterprise grant Royal Institute of British Architects Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors regionally important geological/geomorphological sites regional planning body regional planning guidance (note) regional selective assistance Regional Studies Association regional sustainable development framework



Royal Society for the Protection of Birds right to buy (public-sector housing) regional tourist board Royal Town Planning Institute regional transport strategy Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee special area of conservation (habitats) Standing Advisory Committee on Trunk Road Assessment Sand and Gravel Association Standing Conference of East Anglian Local Authorities Standing Conference on London and South East Regional Planning (see also SERPLAN) Scottish Development Agency (now Scottish Enterprise) Sustainable Development Commission Special Development Order Spatial Development Strategy (London) strategic environmental assessment Scottish Executive Development Department Scottish Executive Education Department South East England Development Agency South East Economic Development Strategy Scottish Executive Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Department South East England Regional Assembly Scottish Executive Health Department Single European market Scottish Environment Protection Agency Scottish Executive Rural Affairs Department






Science and Engineering Research Council London and South East Regional Planning Conference Scottish Housing Advisory Committee statutory instrument social inclusion partnerships (Scotland) site of importance for nature conservation Scottish Landowners Federation small and medium-sized enterprises (Europe) Shelter Neighbourhood Action Project Scottish Natural Heritage sites and monuments records (counties) Scottish Office Scottish Office Agriculture, Environment and Fisheries Department Scottish Office Development Department Scottish Office Environment Department (now SOAEFD) Scottish Office Industry Department Scottish Office Inquiry Reporters Unit Special protection area (for birds) (EU) supplementary planning guidance Simplified planning zone Single Regeneration Budget Scottish Special Housing Association site of special scientific interest Scottish Tourist Board


technical advice note (Wales) Town and Country Planning Association Town and Country Planning Summer School training and enterprise council


value for money four former communist countires: Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary


waste collection authority




Trans-European Network(s) Transport and Environment Studies Transport for London thermal oxide reprocessing plant tree preservation order transport policies and programmes transport Research Laboratory (formerly Transport and Road Research Laboratory) transport supplementary grant The Stationery Office Trades Union Congress Use Classes Order urban development area urban development corporation urban development grant unitary development plan urban exchange initiative United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (‘Earth Summit’, Rio, 1992) United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development United Nations Conference on Trade and Development United Nations Economic Commission for Europe United Nations Environment Programme United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation urban programme urban partnership (Scotland) Urban Regeneration Agency



World Commission on Environment and Development Welsh Development Agency waste disposal authority waste disposal plan West Midlands Enterprise Board Welsh Office waste regulation authority waste reduction always pays Welsh Tourist Board



World Meteorological Organisation Welsh Office Agriculture Department water quality objectives World Trade Organisation World Wide Fund for Nature (formerly the World Wildlife Fund) youth training scheme

Encyclopedia refers to Malcolm Grant’s Encyclopedia of Planning Law and Practice, London: Sweet & Maxwell, loose-leaf, regularly updated by supplements.



The last two editions of this book have made extensive use of resources available on the Internet, the global computer network that links millions of computers world-wide. There are many hundreds of web sites that are relevant to town and country planning and hypertext links among them make it relatively easy to find many sites of interest. Reference is made to relevant web sites throughout this book. This section lists some of the main sites that provide useful starting points for surfing (All the URLs start with http://). Users should be aware that web pages and their addresses are constantly changing. If in doubt use one of the many search engines. UK GENERAL RESOURCES AND DIRECTORIES

Online planning resources by Hugh McLintock Extensive list of planning related web sites Planweb Internet resource for UK planners by Peter Thorpe Planning Online The weekly newspaper with links to documents mentioned Index of national and local government, and government agencies in the UK Guide to Official Information in the UK The Stationery Office web site Online Planning Site dedicated to the impact of the web on planning web.html

National Statistics for the UK, including the Office for National Statistics

The Planning Exchange

Urban Design Resources

Regeneration network



Cyburbia (USA) Internet resources for the built environment

Environmental organisations web directory

Planners Forum (USA) Directory of planning related web content

Planum (Europe)


Europa The main site of the European Union

The European Commission Office in the UK

Council of the European Union

EU Environment Directorate

EU Regional Policy Directorate

Inforegio Regional policy and EU Structural Funds

Eurostat – EU Statistics

European Parliament

Committee of the Regions (EU)

Council of Europe

European Environment Agency

EU Special Study on European Spatial Planning on the site of Nordregio

European Spatial Planning Research and Information Database (ESPRID)

Catalogue of Free Publications from the EU

Office for the Official Publications of the European Union

A Spatial Vision for North-west Europe

Local Government International Bureau

European Environment Bureau


Rural Europe

European Centre for Nature Conservation


UK Online General web site for access to government related bodies and documents

Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions

Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Department of Culture, Media and Sport

Environment Agency

Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution

The New Deal for Communities

English Partnerships

English Nature

Heritage Lottery Fund

English Tourism Council

English Heritage

National Land Use Database

Countryside Agency

Home Office Human Rights Unit

The Planning Inspectorate


Northern Ireland Assembly

Department of the Environment Northern Ireland

The Planning Service

Northern Ireland Executive

Environment and Heritage Service Northern Ireland




The Scottish Executive

Scottish Natural Heritage

Historic Scotland

Scottish Environment Protection Agency

Scottish Homes


National Assembly for Wales

Welsh Development Agency

Countryside Council for Wales


Directory of regional bodies and local authorities

Local Government Association

Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA)

Greater London Authority


United Nations

UN Environment Programme

UN Commission for Sustainable Development

UN Economic Commission for Europe

UN Sustainable Cities Programme

HABITAT +5 Summit

RIO +10 2001 Summit

OECD Territorial Development Service


Royal Town Planning Institute

Town and Country Planning Association

Planning Officers’ Society

British Urban Regeneration Association

Royal Institute of British Architects

European Council of Town Planners

Commonwealth Association of Planners

American Planning Association

International Federation of Housing and Planning

International Urban Development Association (INTA)

ISOCARP International Society of City and Regional Planners

METREX The European network of metropolitan planning authorities

European Sustainable Cities and Towns Campaign

Eurocities Network of 100+ European cities

World Town Planning Day


Association of National Park Sites

Brownfield land

Centre for Local Economic Strategies

Civic Trust

Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE)

Council for the Protection of Rural England




European Local Transport Information Service (ELTIS)

Forum for the Future

Friends of the Earth, UK


House Builders’ Federation

Local Agenda 21 in the UK

Local Sustainability European good practice information service

National Retail Planning Forum

National Trust

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

The Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland

The Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales

Transport 2000

Sustainable Development Commission


Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP)

The Association of European Schools of Planning (AESOP)

Asian Planning Schools Association (APSA)

London Research Centre

PlaNet Network of European planning students

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation – summaries of research papers

Town and Country Planning Summer School

Transport Research Laboratory

U K P L A N N I N G S C H O O L S (many provide

links to other planning resources) Bristol, West of England



Cheltenham and Gloucestershire



Edinburgh, Heriot Watt

Leeds Metropolitan

Liverpool John Moores


London, University College (The Bartlett)

London, South Bank



Nottingham (see online planning resources)

Oxford Brookes


Sheffield Hallam




British Library Public Catalogue

Zetoc British Libray Contents of Journals

The Stationery Office Bookstore


1 T H E N AT U R E O F P L A N N I N G

If planning were judged by results, that is, by whether life followed the dictates of the plan, then planning has failed everywhere it has been tried. No one, it turns out, has the knowledge to predict sequences of actions and reactions across the realm of public policy, and no one has the power to compel obedience. (Wildavsky 1987) The challenge for planning in the 1990s is to ‘adapt’ not only to new substantive agendas about the environment and how to manage it, but to address new ways of thinking about the relation of state and market and state and citizen, in the field of land use and environmental change. (Healey 1992b)


It is the purpose of this chapter to give a general introduction to the character of land use planning. Since this is so much a product of culture, it differs among countries. The understanding of one system is helped by comparing it with others and, for this reason, some international comparisons are introduced. The chapter presents a broad discussion of some basic features of the UK planning system, which is essentially a means for reconciling conflicting interests in land use. Many of the arguments about planning revolve around the relationships between theory and practice. Planning theories (along with related theories on management, government, and other facets of human interaction) have often been based on abstract models stemming from notions of rationality, defined in normative terms. There are difficulties with the concept of rationality. Some of these stem from the fact that planning operates within an economic system which has a ‘market rationality’ which can differ from, and conflict with, the rationality that is espoused in some planning theories. But the crucial issue is that

the concept of rationality cannot be divorced from objectives, ambitions, and interests – as well as place and time. These variables are the very stuff of planning: disputes and conflict arise not because of irrationalities (though these may be present), but because different interests are rationally seeking different objectives. A brief discussion of these matters leads into issues such as those of incrementalism and implementation, both of which present their own rationales for behaviour and attitudes. A notable feature of the UK system is the unusual extent to which it embraces discretion. This allows for flexibility in interpreting the public interest. It is in sharp contrast to other systems which, more typically, explicitly aim at reducing such uncertainty. The European and US systems, for example, eschew flexibility, and lay emphasis on the protection of property rights. Flexibility is highly regarded in the UK because it enables the planning system to meet diverse requirements and the constantly changing nature of the problems with which it attempts to deal. Shifts in planning policy have been dramatic, and seem to be accelerating – with a greater concern for market forces, though only within circumscribed limits, and



with surges in public and political support for and against development and conservation.


Land use planning is a process concerned with the determination of land uses, the general objectives of which are set out in legislation or in some document of legal or accepted standing. The nature of this process will depend in part on the objectives which it is to serve. The broad objective of the UK system is to ‘regulate the development and use of land in the public interest’ (PPG 1: 2). Like all such policy statements, this is a very wide formulation of purpose. It is not, however, empty of content: it enshrines the essential character of the UK planning system. Its significance is highlighted when it is compared with possible alternatives. These might be ‘to encourage the development and use of land’ or ‘to facilitate the development of land by private persons and corporations’. Other alternatives include ‘to plan the use of land to ensure that private property rights are protected and that the public interest is served’ and (an example from Indiana) ‘to guide the development of a consensus land use and circulation plan’. These scene-setting statements convey the overall philosophy or principles which are to guide the planning system. They are important for that reason, and they are of direct concern in disputes about the validity or appropriateness of policies which are elaborated within their framework. They are called upon in support of arguments about specific policies. Politics, conflict, and dispute are at the centre of land use planning. Conflict arises because of the competing demands for the use of land, because of the externality effects that arise when the use of land changes, and because of the uneven distribution of costs and benefits which result from development. If there were no conflicts, there would be no need for planning. Indeed, planning might usefully be defined as the process by which government resolves disputes about land uses. Alternatives arise at every level of planning – from the highest (supranational) level to the lowest (site)

level. The planning system is the machinery by which these levels of choice are managed – from plan-making to development control. Though planning systems vary among countries, they can all be analysed in these terms. The processes involved encompass the determination of objectives, policy-making, consultation and participation, formal dispute resolution, development control, implementation, and the evaluation of outcomes. The explicit function of the processes is to ensure that the wide variety of interests at stake are considered and that outcomes are in the general ‘public interest’. In reality there are very many interests that might be served. Four main groups of participants are politicians serving various levels of government, the development industry, landowners, and ‘the public’. The latter is a highly diverse group which is achieving an increased role (not always meaningfully) by way of pressure group and public involvement. Governments usually argue that a reasonable balance is being achieved between the different interests. Critics argue that intervention through land use planning serves to maintain the dominance of particular interests. Evaluations of planning suggest that those with a property interest are more influential and get more out of the planning system, but organised interest groups and even some individuals have had success in individual cases, so the outcomes are by no means certain. One of the reasons for the increased importance attached to planning processes, and public involvement in them (apart from questions of democracy), lies in the belief that they are effective in reducing the scope for later conflict. The clearer and firmer the policy, and the wider its support, the less room there is for arguing about its application and implementation. Thus for the managers of the system efficiency is increased. But there are limits to this: there is no way that conflict can be planned away. A central problem for the planning system is to devise a means for predicting likely future changes that may impact on the system. In fact, this is extremely difficult, and past attempts have demonstrated that there is a severe limit to prediction. This is one of the reasons why discretion has to be built into the


processes: without this, it is difficult to take account of changing circumstances. A second, more immediate reason for discretion is the impossibility of devising a process which can be applied automatically to the enormous variety of circumstances that come to light when action is being taken. Plans and other policy documents provide a reference point for what has been agreed through the planning process, and against which proposals will be measured. Professional research and analysis, together with opportunities for consultation, public participation, and formal objection and adoption by political representatives, give such documents legitimacy. But they cannot be blueprints. The implementation of a plan always differs from what is anticipated. There are several reasons for this. For the individuals concerned, the actuality of implementation may appear different from the perceived promise of a plan. For the landowners involved, the market implications may prove to be unwelcome (whether or not market conditions have changed). There will generally be those whose objections at the plan-making stage were rejected in favour of alternatives, and who will naturally take advantage of any opportunity to repeat their objections at the stage of implementation: the passage of time and the changes that it has wrought provide that opportunity. The change in conditions may be so great that the plan is outdated or even counter-productive. Where this is the case, there is a clear need for a revised plan, but problems mount in the meantime and (since the process for elaborating a new plan has still to be completed) the areas of dispute multiply. In addition to these general issues, there is always scope for dispute on the detailed application of policy to individual cases: no plan can be so detailed as to be self-implementing. Finally, there are the cases where there is no policy; or where the policy is simply not relevant to the action that needs to be taken. For these and similar reasons, there has to be machinery for settling disputes concerning implementation. Adjudication of disputes may be the responsibility of an administrative system (which is theoretically subservient to the political system), the courts, or an ad hoc machine. The courts have a major role in countries where planning involves issues which are

subject to constitutional safeguards (of property rights or due process), or where plans have the force of law. Where there are no such complications, as is typical in the UK, matters of dispute are more likely to be dealt with by an administrative appeal system. However, there is no hard and fast rule about this, and recent years have witnessed an increasing role for the UK courts. Nevertheless, there remains a huge difference in the role of the courts in the UK compared with the US and most European countries.


In the early years of the less sophisticated immediate postwar period, plans were drawn up in a vacuum which blissfully ignored the manner in which the property market and development processes worked. Land was allocated to uses which seemed sensible in planning terms, but with little regard to the market. Indeed, market considerations were often explicitly expressed in terms which cast them as subservient to needs. Given the positive role which was envisaged for public development, this had some semblance of logic, but it rapidly disintegrated in the face of the realities of public finance and the incapacity of public authorities to take on the primary development role. There is today a better (though very incomplete) understanding of how land and property markets work, and a greater appreciation of the need to take account of market trends (even if they have to be subjected to public control or influence). There is also a greater willingness on the part of both the public and the private sectors to pool their efforts and resources: the word ‘partnership’ is an important addition to the planning lexicon. Of course, this has not ushered in a new era of sweet harmonious cooperation: there are inherent conflicts of interest between (and within) the two sectors. The planning system provides an important mechanism for mediating among these conflicts. There have been serious difficulties here (by no means resolved) which stem, in part, from a mutual ignorance between the planning and the development




sectors. However, attitudes have changed somewhat as a result of a miscellany of forces, ranging from an increased concern on the part of local authorities to promote economic development, to the changed fortunes of the constituent parts of the development industry. Since there is no prospect of a future period of calm stability, attitudes will continue to change. This hardly promises a good base for traditional-type planning (as caricatured by the term ‘end state planning’); rather, it promises an even greater role for flexibility and discretion. A mention of some crucial features of the development process highlights the nature of the conflicts with which planning is concerned: • Developers are concerned with investment and profits, particularly in a time-frame considerably shorter than is typical in the planning world, where the preoccupation is with long-term land use. • Developers need to act quickly in response to market opportunities and the cost of capital. Planners operate in a different time scale. • Development is much easier on greenfield sites than on inner-city locations: to developers, projects are risky enough without being burdened with ‘extraneous’ problems. Problems which are ‘extraneous’ to developers can be central to the concerns and objectives of planners. • Markets are very diverse: and one location is not as good as another. They are, moreover, dynamic: timing may be the crucial factor in the feasibility of a development. Markets are frequently simply not understood by planners: their concern is more generally with the unfolding of a long-term plan. Any pressures they experience are more likely to be political than economic in origin. • Developers are concerned with the particular; for planners, the particular is only one among many which add up to the general policy matters with which they are concerned. Given such major differences between the two sectors, it is not surprising that their relationships can be difficult. The problem for planning is that full consideration for developers’ concerns can quickly lead to ad hoc responses which undermine planning policy.

The very vagueness of policy statements and the high degree of discretion in the system increase the likelihood of this. The dilemma is inherent: there is no simple solution. It is not surprising that the comprehensive planning philosophy which was dominant in the early postwar period is now discredited. It relates to a world which does not exist. Thus, planning has moved from a preoccupation with grand plans to a concern for finding ways of reconciling the conflicting interests which are affected by development. This leads away from development control to negotiation and mediation. Paradoxically, this is happening at the same time that the central government is attempting to secure a greater degree of certainty through a plan-led system. Perhaps the circle will be squared if it is found that mediation leads to greater certainty? US experience shows how developers can work more easily under a negotiatory system than within a regulatory framework: they know how to operate it to their benefit.


Central to planning is the concept of rationality. Since rationality requires all relevant matters to be taken into account, the use of the concept readily leads to a comprehensive conception of planning. This stems from two simple ideas: the first (valid) is that in the real world, everything is related to everything else; the second (invalid) is that the planning of one sector cannot properly proceed without coordinated planning of others. Rationality also requires the determination of objectives (and therefore, though not always explicitly, of values), the definition of the problems to be solved, the formulation of alternative solutions to these problems, the evaluation of these alternatives, and the choice of the optimum policy. This application of the idea of rational scientific method to policy-making has been subject to scrutiny from many different perspectives, giving rise to a wide range of ideas about the nature of planning. First, there are those who have criticised the simple notion of rationality noted above but have continued to maintain


that the task for planning theorists is to elaborate the notion of planning as a set of procedures by which decisions are made (Davidoff and Reiner 1962; Faludi 1987). Second, some people reject the objectivity implied by the simple rational approach and instead focus on the role that planning plays in the distribution of resources among different interests in society. Part of this criticism has included the development of a body of thought variously described as social, community, or equity planning, where planning is promoted as a tool that can redress inequalities and work to benefit minority and disadvantaged groups (Gans 1991). Third, there are more fundamental criticisms from those who have used a neo-Marxist critique to draw attention to more fundamental divisions of power in the political and economic structure of capitalist society (Paris 1982). This view asserts that irrespective of its explicit intentions, planning will inevitably ‘serve those interests it seeks to regulate’ (Ambrose 1986). The persuasiveness of the concept of comprehensive rational planning is seen at every stage of the planmaking process, from the initial production of goals and objectives, to definitions of problems, and proposed solutions. But all this is done in the context of the politics of the place and the time, and against the background of public opinion and the acceptability or otherwise of governmental action. Some important issues may be regarded not as problems capable of solution but as powerful economic trends which cannot be reversed. Others may be of a nature for which possible solutions are conceivable but untried, too costly, too administratively difficult, too uncertain, or even dangerous to the long-term future of the area. And, as will be apparent from later chapters, these acutely difficult problems (of urbanisation, congestion, inner-city decay, for example) have continually proved beyond the powers of governments to solve, at least in the short run; and the long run is unpredictable. Big differences of opinion exist among experts, politicians, and electors on these matters. As a result, there are severe constraints operating on the planning process, and there is little resembling a logical, calm set of procedures informed by intellectual debate. Certainly, the process is far from scientific or rational.

Practitioners are quick to point out that planning involves deciding between opposing interests and objectives: personal gain versus sectional advantage or public benefit, short-term profit versus long-term gain, efficiency versus cheapness, to name but a few. It entails mediation among different groups, and compromise among the conflicting desires of individual interests. Above all, it necessitates the balancing of a range of individual and community concerns, costs, and rights. It is essentially a political as distinct from a technical or legal process, though it embraces important elements of all these aspects. Currently, one of the most difficult planning issues is concerned with reconciling the implications of the growth in traffic with traditional ideas about town centres and urban growth. The policy response has been as confused as the issues are complex and politically daunting. So far, the main focus has been on controlling the number of additional out-of-town shopping centres, and directing development back to town centres and brownfield sites. Conflicts that arise here include the apparently irrepressible demand for car ownership and use, the traditional view that road space is free and should not incur any type of congestion charge, the desire of town centre businesses to maintain their custom and to avoid the risk of losing it because of tighter parking restrictions, the financial difficulties facing public transport, and so on. Any one of these issues on its own would be difficult enough; all of them together constitutes a planning witches’ brew. And, as so often happens, ends and means become intertwined in a hopelessly confusing way: protecting city centres, safeguarding inner-city jobs, conserving the countryside, reducing pollution, facilitating ease of access for the car-less as well as the car traveller, providing greater choice for the shopper – which is the objective and which the solution? These issues are examined in later chapters; they are listed here to underline the essentially political nature of planning. Grand phrases about rational planning to ‘coordinate land uses’ crumble against the stark reality of the complex real world. The concept of comprehensive planning in theory may be contrasted with the narrowly focused planning which takes place in practice. Each administrative




agency takes its decisions within its particular sphere of interest, understanding, resources, and competence. How can it be otherwise? The task of any agency is to undertake the task for which it is established, not to take on the complicating and possibly conflicting responsibilities of others (which in any case would be resistant to a take-over). Thus, a conservation agency will take decisions of a very different character from an economic development agency: they have separate and potentially conflicting goals. The idea that there is some level of planning which can rise above the narrow sectionalism of individual agencies is not only inconceivable in terms of implementation: it also assumes that an overriding objective can be identified and articulated. This is typically expressed in terms of the public interest; yet there are very many ‘publics’. They have conflicting interests which are represented by, or reflected in, different agencies of government. This simple point is worth emphasising at a time when planning is promoted as a means of sectoral policy integration and achieving ‘joined-up government’. Change takes place not only in physical terms but also socially, economically, institutionally, and indeed in many other ways. The spatial restructuring is the most dramatic visually but, in terms of the quality of everyday life, other dimensions are of greater importance: income and income security, employment, health services, and education, and also matters relating to race, handicap, age, and gender. Each of these has its own brand of planning, and it is sometimes suggested that there should be an overarching planning system which coordinates all of these. This is an extreme form of comprehensive planning which, even if inconceivable, frequently arises in discussions of the limitations of purely physical planning. Even coordination among the various agencies of planning is difficult and, not surprisingly, rare. Planners have made more claims for comprehensiveness than other professionals; indeed, the search for this has been their distinguishing feature. The fact that they have neither the responsibilities nor the resources for such ambitious aims has not, in the past, prevented them from being articulated. A classic example is the Greater London Development Plan, which was subject to a searching inquiry in 1970. The plan dealt not only

with the land use issues which fell within the remit of the Greater London Council, but also with a wide range of policy areas including employment, education, transport, health, and income distribution. There was no doubt about the importance of these and similar issues, but they did not fall within the responsibility of the Council; indeed, it had no way of exerting any influence in these fields (Centre for Environmental Studies 1970). The experience of the Greater London Development Plan cast a shadow over the hopes of the more ambitious planners of the time, and it affected the attitude of central government to the definition of matters which were relevant to an official development plan. It has taken a long time for central government to feel able to countenance giving official blessing to the need even to take account of ‘social needs and problems’. That it has now done so (in PPG 12, quoted later) suggests that the fear of over-ambitious plan-making has receded: local planning authorities are now too experienced in the implementation of plans to seek the impossible. Indeed, the contemporary problem may be the opposite one of believing that too little is possible. The apparent impossibility of tackling problems raised by increased traffic, rising housing demands, and suchlike could lead to a virtual demise of all planning that is not simply regulatory: planning could degenerate into nothing more than a sophisticated form of building control. This is probably an exaggeration – but it is not impossible.


The obvious failure of comprehensive planning to attain desired goals has led to a number of alternative models of decision-making processes. Many of these revolve around the problem of making planning effective in a world where values, attitudes, and aspirations differ, where market and political forces predominate, and where uncertainty prevails. Lindblom (1959) dismissed rational comprehensive planning as an impractical ideal. In his view, it is necessary to accept the realities of the processes by which planning decisions are taken: for this he outlined a ‘science of


muddling through’. Essentially, this incrementalist approach replaces grand plans by a modest step-bystep approach which aims at realisable improvements on an existing situation. This is a method of ‘successive limited comparisons’ of circumscribed problems and actions to deal with them. Lindblom argues that this is what happens in the real world: rather than attempt major change to achieve lofty ends, planners are compelled by reality to limit themselves to acceptable modifications of the status quo. On this argument, it is impossible to take all relevant factors into account or to separate means from ends. Rather than attempting to reform the world, the planner should be concerned with incremental practicable improvements. There has been much debate on Lindblom’s ideas (a good selection is given in Faludi 1973); here it is necessary only to make two points. First, incrementalism is theoretically different from opportunism: it is a rational and realistic approach to dealing with problems. It rejects a comprehensive analysis of all the available options, and concentrates on what appears practicable and sensible given the constraints of time and resources. The classic illustration of the infeasibility of its opposite is the zerobase budget, which, instead of being based on a previous year’s figures, rejects history and questions the justification for every individual item. (The term comes from the baseline of the new budget – zero.) As Wildavsky (1978) has demonstrated, this is a completely unmanageable approach: it overwhelms, frustrates, and finally exhausts those who try it. (Of course, selected items may with benefit be isolated for such treatment; but that is a very different matter.) Second, incrementalism is more a practical necessity than a desirable model to be followed. All policies need thorough review at times – particularly those embedded in an established development plan. Without the occasional upheaval (and that is what zero-base budgeting or policy-making implies), policies can continue well after they have served their purpose: they may even have become counter-productive. Indeed, incrementalism can lead to disasters, wars often being dramatic illustrations of the point. (The escalation of the Vietnam War is a horrendous example.) The ease with which incrementalism

continues does in fact make a break in the continuity difficult; and often both the political and the administrative systems are averse to change. Nevertheless, changes in direction are sometimes essential; and events (particularly unexpected ones) may create the basis for a change, despite any fears about uncertain outcomes. The difficulties are well illustrated by the current heart-searching about transport policy. Here, a reversal of trends is necessary, and is increasingly being recognised; but how change should be brought about, and what its character should be, are highly problematic.


The rational model of planning embraces the simplistic view that there is a logical progression through successive stages of ‘planning’, culminating in implementation. The beguiling logic does not translate into reality. On the contrary, it is highly misleading and dangerous to separate policy and implementation matters. In fact, sometimes policy emanates from ideas about implementation rather than the other way round. Thus a policy of slum clearance or redevelopment focuses on the clearly indicated types of action. The implementation becomes the policy, and the underlying purpose is left in doubt. If the objective is to improve the living conditions of those living in slum areas, there might be better ways of doing this, such as rehabilitation, or area improvement through local citizen action. With such an approach, demolition might be merely an incidental element in the local programme. With clearance as a policy, however, there is a danger that quite different objectives might be served, such as commercial development, or provision for roads and car parking. Unfortunately, the difficulties involved here are even greater than this suggests, since clearly focused efforts are not enough. For instance, a policy of improving a low-income area by environmental improvements may be explicitly intended to benefit the existing inhabitants, but the added attraction of the area may become reflected in higher rents and prices which could lead to gentrification, thus benefiting a




very different group. Similarly, a policy of providing grants to industrialists to move to an area of unemployment may result in the substitution of capital for labour, or the influx of workers with skills not possessed by the local people. A policy of preserving historic buildings by prohibiting demolition or alteration may lead to accelerated deterioration as owners seek ways of circumventing the regulations (and, in the period before the prohibition comes into effect, a rash of demolitions – as with the Firestone factory on the Great West Road, London; which was demolished on a holiday weekend). A policy of reducing urban congestion by controlling growth through the designation of green belts may result in ‘leapfrogging’ of development, increased commuting, and thus increased urban congestion. Examples could easily be multiplied (Derthick 1972; Hall 1980; Kingdon 1984). To confuse matters further, arguments about such effects are often complicated by differing views on what the objectives of the policy really are. The green belt case is a particularly good illustration of the point, since defenders (and there are many) can slip from one objective to another with ease. If the green belt does not reduce urban congestion, it provides ‘opportunities for access to the open countryside for the urban population’ and ‘opportunities for outdoor sport and outdoor recreation near urban areas’; and if it does not do this, it does ‘retain attractive landscapes and enhance landscapes, near to where people live’. Other objectives (all listed in PPG 2) are ‘to improve damaged and derelict land around towns’; ‘to secure nature conservation interest’; and ‘to retain land in agricultural, forestry and related uses’. There is nothing unique in such a long list of miscellaneous policy objectives (though this one is unusual in the manner in which it is conveniently assembled and articulated). It would be a very sad policy indeed that was unable to meet any objectives in such a list! (To quote Wildavsky’s pithy observation, ‘objectives are kept vague and multiple to expand the range within which observed behaviour fits’; Wildavsky 1987: 35). It should be added that sometimes policies have unintended good side effects. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to relate cause and effect, but one example is the imposition by the US federal government of a

55 mile per hour speed limit. This was introduced to reduce petrol consumption, but a welcome effect was a reduction in road accidents: this, for a time, became the basis of a powerful argument for retaining the speed limit after the fuel crisis had passed. The points do not need labouring: the certainty which is required for the type of rational planning envisaged in some traditional theories is impossible. The underlying assumptions, relevance, and political support can change dramatically; and the outcomes of policy are difficult to predict, are frequently different from expectations, are hard to identify and to separate from all the other forces at work, and are rarely clear. Thus, not only is planning a hazardous exercise, with serious likelihood of failure; it is also an exercise whose outcomes are remarkably difficult to evaluate, even when they are felt to be a resounding success. It is perhaps unsurprising that most planners have neither the time nor the remit to examine what went wrong with the last plan: they have moved on to the next one! It is, however, a matter of some surprise that there have been so few analyses of the (UK) planning scene to fill the vacuum. The wealth of US studies indicates how valuable this can be. Perhaps it is another cultural characteristic that there is little interest in learning why things go wrong?


Since it is easier to understand one planning system by comparing it with another, it is worth exploring a little further the differences between the UK, the USA and other European systems. Three features are of particular interest: first, the extent to which a planning system operates within a framework of constitutionally protected rights; second, the degree to which a system embodies discretion; third, the importance of history and culture. In many countries the constitution limits governmental action in relation to land and property. In the USA, the Bill of Rights provides that ‘no person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken


without just compensation’. These words mean much more than is apparent to the casual (non-American) reader. Since land use regulations affect property rights, they are subject to constitutional challenge. They can be disputed not only on the basis of their effect on a particular property owner (i.e. as applied), but also in principle: a regulation can be challenged on the argument that, in itself, it violates the constitution (this is described in the legal jargon as being facially unconstitutional). Moreover, the constitution protects against arbitrary government actions, and this further limits what can be done in the name of land use planning. No such restraints exist in the UK system. Indeed, the UK does not have a codified constitution of the type common to most other countries (Yardley 1995). Constitutions can influence the system in more subtle ways. In some European countries, including Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain, the constitution provides that all citizens have the right to a decent home. This may limit planning action, but may also influence policy priorities and provide legitimacy for intervention. In Finland and Portugal, landowners are granted the constitutional right to build on their land. This presents obvious difficulty in pursuing policies of restraining urban growth. Constitutions also often allocate powers to different tiers of government, which effectively ensures a minimum degree of autonomy for regional and local governments. Again, there is no such constitutional safeguard in the UK. As a result, the Thatcher government was able to abolish a whole tier of metropolitan local government in England and, in consequence, that part of the planning system that went with it. Such haughty action would be inconceivable in most countries. In the USA, for example, there is little to compare with the central power which is exercised by the national government in Britain. Plan-making and implementation are essentially local issues, even though the federal government has become active in highways, water, and environmental matters, and in recent years a number of states have become involved in land use planning. So local is the responsibility that even the decision on whether to operate land use controls is a local one; and many US local governments have only minimal systems.

Lack of constitutional constraint allows for a wide degree of discretion in the UK planning system. In determining applications for planning permission, a local authority is guided by the development plan, but is not bound by it: other ‘material considerations’ are taken into account. In most of the rest of the world, plans become legally binding documents. Indeed, they are part of the law, and the act of giving a permit is no more than a certification that a proposal is in accordance with the plan. In practice, there are mechanisms that allow for variations from the provisions of a plan but, since these are by definition contrary to the law, they may entail lengthy procedures, and perhaps an amendment to the plan. This discretion is further enlarged by the fact that the preparation of a local plan is carried out by the same local authority that implements it. This is so much a part of the tradition of British planning that no one comments on it. The US situation is different, with great emphasis being placed on the separation of powers. (Typically the plan is prepared by the legislative body – the local authority – but administered by a separate board.) The British system has the advantage of relating policy and administration (and easily accommodating policy changes) but, to US eyes, ‘this institutional framework blurs the distinction between policy making and policy applying, and so enlarges the role of the administrator who has to decide a specific case’ (Mandelker 1962: 4). The Human Rights Convention also focuses attention on the separation of powers since it provides for the right to appeal to an independent body against actions of government. Though there is a limited right of appeal to the courts in the UK (which are independent), most appeals are heard by the government or its representatives. There may need to be changes to the planning system to meet the requirements of the Convention. Above all, in comparing planning systems, there are fundamental differences in the philosophy that underpins them. Thus, put simply (and therefore rather exaggeratedly), US planning is largely a matter of anticipating trends, while in the UK there is a conscious effort to bend them in publicly desirable directions. In France, aménagement du territoire (the term often incorrectly used as a translation for town and




country planning) deals with the planning of the activities of different government sectors to meet common social and economic goals, while in the UK, town and country planning is about the management of land use, albeit taking into account social and economic concerns. Planning systems are rooted in the particular historical, legal, and physical conditions of individual countries and regions. In the UK, some of the many important factors which have shaped the system are the strong land preservation ethic, epitomised in the work of the Council for the Protection of Rural England (and its Scottish and Welsh counterparts) and, of longer standing, the husbandry of the landowning class. Added (but not unrelated) to this are the popular attitudes to the preservation of the countryside and the containment of urban sprawl, which in turn are related to the early industrialisation of the UK; the small size of the country; the long history of parliamentary government; and the power of the civil service in central government and the professions in local government. In comparison, land in the USA has historically been a replaceable commodity that could and should be parcelled out for individual control and development; and if one person saw fit to destroy the environment of his or her valley in pursuit of profit, well, why not? There was always another valley over the next hill. Thus the seller’s concept of property rights in land came to include the right of owners to earn a profit from their land, and indeed to change the very essence of the land, if necessary to obtain that profit. In the Mediterranean countries of Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain there has been a short history of democratic government, and planning regulation has enjoyed little general public support. Controlling land use has been much less a political priority than housing the population. In large parts of these countries rapid urbanisation has proceeded with little regard to regulations or plans. The historic cores of cities, meanwhile, have not until recently felt the scale of pressure for redevelopment which has been the norm in northern Europe. However, in all countries land for development is

becoming more valuable, and the problem of coping with land use conflicts is of increasing importance. In Europe this has led to the growth of a conservationist ethic, with the restraint of urban growth being a top priority. In the USA this has happened to a limited extent, particularly with environmentally valuable resources, but a major effect was in the opposite direction: to increase the attractiveness of land as a source of profit. Speculation has never been frowned upon in the USA. In many countries, land is regarded as different from commodities: it is something to be preserved and husbanded. In the USA, the dominant ethic regards land as a commodity, no different from any other. Though there is much rhetoric to the contrary, actions speak louder than words. The contrast in the operation of planning in different countries is abundantly clear to anyone who travels.


Having drawn the comparison, we immediately need to qualify it: times and attitudes change, sometimes slowly, sometimes dramatically. The largest postwar change in the UK has been the move from ‘positive planning’ to a more market-conscious (and sometimes market-led) approach. The elements of this (which range from the abolition of development charges to the embracement of property-led urban regeneration) are discussed later, but it needs to be stressed that the extent of the change in planning attitudes towards market forces has been dramatic. The limits of the possible have been redefined in the light of experience and a recognition of the character of the forces at work in the modern world. Governments are responsive to shifts in electoral opinion, particularly when changes can be made painlessly. The UK planning system provides a route by which change can be implemented not only without pain, but also with little effort. Indeed, the ease with which it can accommodate change is quite remarkable. There has, for instance, been a see-saw in the extent to which economic development, social needs, and environmental concerns have had a high profile. In the


1980s, economic efficiency rose to prime place in the government’s order of priorities. (This was the time when the planning system was attacked for its restrictive character: ‘locking away jobs in filing cabinets’.) Environmental concerns later became salient – a result of a fascinating combination of conservative forces ranging from green belt voters keen to protect the belt, to a younger generation of protestors who had less to lose but saw more to protect. Social considerations have for long been regarded by central government as being outside the legitimate responsibility of the planning system (a curiously British myopia). Major arguments have raged between the centre and the localities on what is, and what is not, appropriate for inclusion in a development plan. After many years of pressing local authorities to exclude ‘social factors’, the central government made a curious about-turn in a planning policy guidance note of 1992: ‘authorities will wish to consider the relationship of planning policies and proposals to social needs and problems’ (PPG 12: para. 5.48). The most recent version of this guidance, published in 1999, continues in the same way. This flexibility (another aspect of the discretionary nature of the system) is a built-in feature. The statutory framework is essentially procedural; it is almost devoid of substantive content. Local authorities are given the duty to prepare development plans (a rare case where no discretion is allowed; unlike their US counterparts, a local authority is not free to decide not to have a plan). What goes into the plan, however, is very imprecise: ‘general policies in respect of the conservation of the natural beauty and amenity of the land; the improvement of the physical environment; and the management of traffic’ (Town and Country Planning Act 1990, section 13.3A). More detailed requirements are, of course, spelled out in a range of directions and advice from the central government. But that is the point: the content is added separately, and can be changed in line with what ‘the Secretary of State may prescribe’. Yet changes are often not easy to evaluate, even if only because the implementation of planning policy rests with local authorities and, despite much bandying of words, central government powers over them

are limited. There are, of course, various control mechanisms and default powers, but these are cumbersome to use, and they carry political risks. Moreover, central government’s understanding of how local government works, and its awareness of what happens in practice, is even more circumscribed. These depths of ignorance have had surprisingly little academic light shed on them: few studies have been undertaken of the actual working of the planning machine. (Note the surprise which was expressed when the report on development control in North Cornwall (Lees 1993) revealed that the local councillors gave favourable consideration to the personal circumstances of local applicants for planning permission.) Given such considerations, it can be difficult to chart (or even to be aware of) important changes. Legislative amendments and new policy statements are more apparent, but they may not be as important as trends which emerge over time. (For example, it may be that one of the most significant operational changes has been the way in which local authorities and housebuilders have evolved a system for negotiating housing land allocations; perhaps in time this model might be followed in other development sectors?) Moreover, major political statements and new laws typically follow rather than precede changes in attitudes and perceptions. The picture is also confused by grand claims for new approaches which seldom last far beyond an initial flurry. Much is obscured by political debate and the use of fuzzy jargon. Changes are more easily seen in retrospect than contemporaneously.


Planning is an imperative: only the form it takes is optional. At a minimum, some system is required to provide infrastructure – preferably in the right place at the right time. Something more than this is generally accepted to be necessary (and general acceptance is the bedrock of any form of effective planning). But there is no way of determining the extent to which a planning system ought to go in determining ‘how much of what should go where and when’. The




decision is a political one, even if it is taken by default (i.e. with no effective opposition to its growth). Hence, as stressed earlier, cultural influences are crucial. However, this does not mean that a planning system is hallowed or immune from review and radical change. It may be that the UK system has reached precisely the stage at which this is required, though this is not the place to elaborate such an argument. It is, nevertheless, appropriate to point to some issues which need addressing if the planning system is to adapt to conditions which are very different from those that existed half a century ago when it was introduced. First, the UK planning system is highly effective in stopping development: it is much less effective in facilitating it. Comparative research on property markets in Europe (Williams and Wood 1994) underlines the lack of ‘positive planning’. There are serious weaknesses in anticipating needs and allocating sufficient land for these to be met; in the assembling and acquisition of land (especially in inner cities); and in integrating the planning of infrastructure with new development. Powers exist for such important planning actions, but they are underused since there is insufficient relationship between the (public) planning process and the (largely private) development process. In the 1947 Act it was envisaged that ‘positive’ planning would be undertaken directly by the public sector. This proved infeasible; and alternative mechanisms are underdeveloped. Second, the most difficult issue facing any policy is defining the right questions. A mechanism is needed to facilitate this. It could be argued that current UK debates are focused on the wrong questions. Too many are concerned with the ‘how’ of planning policy rather than the ‘why’. Why is the countryside to be protected? Why are city centres to be rehabilitated? Why are additional facilities for travel to be provided? There are many such questions, and though they do not have simple (or readily acceptable) answers, debate upon them would provide a firmer base for policy than exists at present. The debate would, however, raise a further level of policy questions. Thus, it might be asked where retail outlets should be located to maximise convenience, service, and profitability (or whatever other criteria are to be employed), rather than

posing the questions in terms of safeguarding existing patterns of development (particularly existing town centres). Instead of asking where the best locations are for housing an additional x million households, argument rages over protecting the countryside from housing development and concentrating new housing in urban areas. Third, planning deals with a highly complex series of interrelated processes which are imperfectly understood. Though better understanding should be high on the research agenda, these processes will inevitably remain beyond the comprehension needed for fully competent land use planning. It follows that planning must proceed on the basis of either a high degree of ignorance, or belief in the efficacy of some over-riding political or economic philosophy. In practical terms, this implies debating how far the planning process should ally itself to market forces (or socio-economic trends, if that term is preferred). These issues arise throughout this book. It should be evident from this introductory discussion that they are not easily resolved. Indeed, much ‘planning’ effort is spent on wrestling with them. There seems no doubt that this will continue.


Good starting points on the nature of planning are Taylor (1998) Urban Planning Theory since 1945 and the older but still relevant chapter 2 of Healey et al. (1982) Planning Theory: Prospects for the 1980s, and Ravetz (1986) The Government of Space (which contains a chapter on theoretical perspectives). A useful collection of early articles is contained in Faludi (1973) A Reader in Planning Theory. (This includes the paper by Lindblom referred to in the chapter, together with important papers by writers such as Davidoff, Etzioni, Friedmann, and Meyerson). Later collections contain more recent writings: Healey et al. (1982) Planning Theory: Prospects for the 1980s, Campbell and Fainstein (1996) Readings in Planning Theory, and Fainstein and Campbell (1996) Readings in Urban Theory. A helpful analysis of arguments for and against planning is given by Klosterman (1985). For an insightful, succinct


discussion of the constant flood of changes which besets planning, see Batty (1990) ‘How can we best respond to changing fashions in urban and regional planning?’. Sillince (1986) A Theory of Planning gives useful summaries of rational comprehensive and incremental models of procedural planning theory. A fuller account is provided by Alexander (1992) Approaches to Planning. A particularly useful introduction to the analysis of policy issues is Kingdon (1984) Agendas, Alternatives and Public Policies. A clear and succinct account of policy processes is given in Ham and Hill (1993) The Policy Process in the Modern Capitalist State. There is a good range of readings in an accompanying volume edited by Hill (1993) The Policy Process. There are a number of useful papers in Tewdwr-Jones (1996) British Planning Policy in Transition. Hall (1980) Great Planning Disasters is required reading for all planners, as well as for non-planners who want to know why planning is so difficult. A more complex, but fascinating, study focused on the operation of US federal policy in one urban area is Pressman and Wildavsky (1984) Implementation. Very interesting as well as revealing is Derthick (1972) New Towns InTown: Why a Federal Program Failed. Such case studies are much more common in the USA than in the UK (a reflection of the cultural differences in the openness of government). Among the small number of British studies, see Muchnick (1970) Urban Renewal in Liverpool; Levin (1976) Government and the Planning Process (which focuses on the new and expanded towns); Healey (1983) Local Plans in British Land Use Planning; and Blowers (1984) Something in the Air: Corporate Power and the Environment. Simmie (1993) Planning at the Crossroads summarises research findings on the impact of planning in the UK. A radical critique of the role of planning in society is given by Ambrose (1986) Whatever Happened to Planning? See also his Urban Process and Power (1994). For a comparative study of ‘certainty and discretion’

in planning, see Booth (1996) Controlling Development. Discretion is discussed at length (comparing the UK and the USA) by Cullingworth (1993) The Political Culture of Planning. A broader discussion of the two countries is given by Vogel (1986) National Styles of Regulation. The challenge that Thatcherism and ‘the market’ brought to ideas of planning has been addressed in many studies – notably Thornley (1993) Urban Planning under Thatcherism: The Challenge of the Market; Allmendinger and Thomas (1998) Urban Planning and the British New Right; and Brindley et al. (1996) Remaking Planning. Communication, negotiation, and argumentation through planning have dominated discussions about planning theory during the 1990s. Early contributions are by Forester (1982) ‘Planning in the face of power’ and other papers brought together in the book Planning in the Face of Power (1989). Later contributions include those of Innes (1995) ‘Planning theory’s emerging paradigm: communicative action and interactive practice’; and Healey (1997) Collaborative Planning; (1998) ‘Collaborative planning in a stakeholder society’; and (1992c) ‘Planning through debate: the communicative turn in planning theory’. Consequently, aspects of planning practice have been investigated using these ideas; for example, Healey (1993) ‘The communicative work of development plans’; Davoudi et al. (1997) ‘Rhetoric and reality in British structure planning in Lancashire: 1993–95; and Tait and Campbell (2000) ‘The politics of communication between planning officers and politicians: the exercise of power through discourse’. For a critique, see Tewdwr-Jones and Allmendinger (1998) ‘Deconstructing communicative rationality: a critique of Habermasian collaborative planning’. For some amusing homespun philosophy on planning, see Zucker (1999) What Your Planning Professors Forgot to Tell You.



The first assumption that we have made is that national planning is intended to be a reality and a permanent feature of the internal affairs of this country. (Uthwatt Report 1942)


Town and country planning as a task of government has developed from public health and housing policies. The nineteenth-century increase in population and, even more significant, the growth of towns led to public health problems which demanded a new role for government. Together with the growth of medical knowledge, the realisation that overcrowded, insanitary urban areas resulted in an economic cost (which had to be borne at least in part by the local ratepayers), and the fear of social unrest, this new urban growth eventually resulted in an appreciation of the necessity for interfering with market forces and private property rights in the interest of social well-being. The nineteenth-century public health legislation was directed at the creation of adequate sanitary conditions. Among the measures taken to achieve these were powers for local authorities to make and enforce building by-laws for controlling street widths and the height, structure, and layout of buildings. Limited and defective though these powers proved to be, they represented a marked advance in social control and paved the way for more imaginative measures. The physical impact of by-law control on British towns is depressingly still very much in evidence; and it did not escape the attention of contemporary social reformers. In the words of Unwin,

much good work has been done. In the ample supply of pure water, in the drainage and removal of waste matter, in the paving, lighting and cleansing of streets, and in many other such ways, probably our towns are as well served as, or even better than, those elsewhere. Moreover, by means of our much abused bye-laws, the worst excesses of overcrowding have been restrained; a certain minimum standard of air-space, light and ventilation has been secured; while in the more modern parts of towns, a fairly high degree of sanitation, of immunity from fire, and general stability of construction have been maintained, the importance of which can hardly be exaggerated. We have, indeed, in all these matters laid a good foundation and have secured many of the necessary elements for a healthy condition of life; and yet the remarkable fact remains that there are growing up around our big towns vast districts, under these very bye-laws, which for dreariness and sheer ugliness it is difficult to match anywhere, and compared with which many of the old unhealthy slums are, from the point of view of picturesqueness and beauty, infinitely more attractive. (Unwin 1909: 3)

It was on this point that public health and architecture met. The enlightened experiments at Saltaire (1853), Bournville (1878), Port Sunlight (1887), and elsewhere had provided object lessons. Ebenezer Howard and the garden city movement were now exerting considerable influence on contemporary thought. The National Housing Reform Council (later the National Housing and Town Planning Council) was campaigning for the introduction of town planning. Even more


significant was a similar demand from local government and professional associations such as the Association of Municipal Corporations, the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Surveyors’ Institute and the Association of Municipal and County Engineers. As Ashworth has pointed out, the support of many of these bodies was particularly important because it showed that the demand for town planning was arising not simply out of theoretical preoccupations but out of the everyday practical experience of local administration. The demand was coming in part from those who would be responsible for the execution of town planning if it were introduced. (Ashworth 1954: 180)


The movement for the extension of sanitary policy into town planning was uniting diverse interests. These were nicely summarised by John Burns, president of the Local Government Board, when he introduced the first legislation bearing the term ‘town planning’ – the Housing, Town Planning, Etc. Act 1909: The object of the bill is to provide a domestic condition for the people in which their physical health, their morals, their character and their whole social condition can be improved by what we hope to secure in this bill. The bill aims in broad outline at, and hopes to secure, the home healthy, the house beautiful, the town pleasant, the city dignified and the suburb salubrious.

The new powers provided by the Act were for the preparation of ‘schemes’ by local authorities for controlling the development of new housing areas. Though novel, these powers were logically a simple extension of existing ones. It is significant that this first legislative acceptance of town planning came in an Act dealing with health and housing. The gradual development and the accumulated experience of public health and housing measures facilitated a general acceptance of the principles of town planning: Housing reform had gradually been conceived in terms of larger and larger units. Torrens’ Act (Artizans and Labourers Dwellings Act, 1868) had made a beginning with individual houses; Cross’s Act (Artizans and Labourers Dwellings Improvement Act, 1875) had

introduced an element of town planning by concerning itself with the reconstruction of insanitary areas; the framing of bylaws in accordance with the Public Health Act of 1875 had accustomed local authorities to the imposition of at least a minimum of regulation on new building, and such a measure as the London Building Act of 1894 brought into the scope of public control the formation and widening of streets, the lines of buildings frontage, the extent of open space around buildings, and the height of buildings. Town planning was therefore not altogether a leap in the dark, but could be represented as a logical extension, in accordance with changing aims and conditions, of earlier legislation concerned with housing and public health. (Ashworth 1954: 181)

The ‘changing conditions’ were predominantly the rapid growth of suburban development: a factor which increased in importance in the following decades: In fifteen years 500,000 acres of land have been abstracted from the agricultural domain for houses, factories, workshops and railways . . . If we go on in the next fifteen years abstracting another half a million from the agricultural domain, and we go on rearing in green fields slums, in many respects, considering their situation, more squalid than those which are found in Liverpool, London and Glasgow, posterity will blame us for not taking this matter in hand in a scientific spirit. Every two and a half years there is a County of London converted into urban life from rural conditions and agricultural land. It represents an enormous amount of building land which we have no right to allow to go unregulated. (Parliamentary Debates, 12 May 1908)

The emphasis was entirely on raising the standards of new development. The Act permitted local authorities (after obtaining the permission of the Local Government Board) to prepare town planning schemes with the general object of ‘securing proper sanitary conditions, amenity and convenience’, but only for land which was being developed or appeared likely to be developed. Strangely, it was not at all clear what town planning involved. It certainly did not include ‘the remodelling of the existing town, the replanning of badly planned areas, the driving of new roads through old parts of a town – all these are beyond the scope of the new planning powers’ (Aldridge 1915: 459). The Act itself provided no definition; indeed, it merely listed nineteen ‘matters to be dealt with by general provisions




prescribed by the Local Government Board’. The restricted and vague nature of this first legislation was associated in part with the lack of experience of the problems involved. Nevertheless, the cumbersome administrative procedure devised by the Local Government Board (in order to give all interested parties ‘full opportunity of considering all the proposals at all stages’) might well have been intended to deter all but the most ardent of local authorities. The land taxes threatened by the 1910 Finance Act, and then the world war, added to the difficulties. It can be no surprise that very few schemes were actually completed under the 1909 Act.


The first revision of town planning legislation which took place after the war (the Housing and Town Planning Act of 1919) did little in practice to broaden the basis of town planning. The preparation of schemes was made obligatory on all borough and urban districts having a population of 20,000 or more, but the time limit (January 1926) was first extended (by the Housing Act 1923) and finally abolished (by the Town and Country Planning Act 1932). Some of the procedural difficulties were removed, but no change in concept appeared. Despite lip-service to the idea of town planning, the major advances made at this time were in the field of housing rather than planning. It was the 1919 Act which began what Marion Bowley (1945: 15) has called ‘the series of experiments in State intervention to increase the supply of workingclass houses’. The 1919 Act accepted the principle of state subsidies for housing and thus began the nationwide growth of council house estates. Equally significant was the entirely new standard of workingclass housing provided: the three-bedroom house with kitchen, bath, and garden, built at the density recommended by the Tudor Walters Committee (1918) of not more than twelve houses to the acre. At these new standards, development could generally take place only on virgin land on the periphery of towns, and municipal estates grew alongside the private

suburbs: ‘the basic social products of the twentieth century’, as Asa Briggs (1952 vol. 2: 228) has termed them. This suburbanisation was greatly accelerated by rapid developments in transportation – developments with which the young planning machine could not keep pace. The ideas of Howard (1898) and the garden city movement, of Geddes (1915), and of those who, like Warren and Davidge (1930), saw town planning not just as a technique for controlling the layout and design of residential areas, but as part of a policy of national economic and social planning, were receiving increasing attention, but in practice town planning typically meant little more than an extension of the old public health and housing controls. Various attempts were made to deal with the increasing difficulties. Of particular significance were the Town and Country Planning Act of 1932, which extended planning powers to almost any type of land, whether built-up or undeveloped, and the Restriction of Ribbon Development Act 1935, which, as its name suggests, was designed to control the spread of development along major roads. But these and similar measures were inadequate. For instance, under the 1932 Act, planning schemes took about three years to prepare and pass through all their stages. Final approval had to be given by Parliament, and schemes then had the force of law, as a result of which variations or amendments were not possible except by a repetition of the whole procedure. Interim development control operated during the time between the passing of a resolution to prepare a scheme and its date of operation (as approved by Parliament). This enabled, but did not require, developers to apply for planning permission. If they did not obtain planning permission, and the development was not in conformity with the scheme when approved, the planning authority could require the owner (without compensation) to remove or alter the development. All too often, however, developers preferred to take a chance that no scheme would ever come into force, or that if it did, no local authority would face pulling down existing buildings. The damage was therefore done before the planning authorities had a chance to intervene (Wood 1949: 45). Once a planning scheme


was approved, on the other hand, the local authority ceased to have any planning control over individual developments. The scheme was in fact a zoning plan: land was zoned for particular uses such as residential or industrial, though provision could be made for such controls as limiting the number of buildings and the space around them. In fact, so long as developers did not try to introduce a non-conforming use, they were fairly safe. Furthermore, most schemes did little more than accept and ratify existing trends of development, since any attempt at a more radical solution would have involved the planning authority in compensation which it could not afford to pay. In most cases the zones were so widely drawn as to place hardly more restriction on the developer than if there had been no scheme at all. Indeed, in the half of the country covered by draft planning schemes in 1937 there was sufficient land zoned for housing to accommodate 291 million people (Barlow Report 1940: para. 241). A major weakness was, of course, the administrative structure itself. District and county borough councils were generally small and weak. They were unlikely to turn down proposals for development on locational grounds if compensation was involved or if they would thereby be deprived of rate income. The compensation paid either for planning restrictions or for compulsory acquisition had to be determined in relation to the most profitable use of the land, even if it was unlikely that the land would be so developed, and without regard to the fact that the prohibition of development on one site usually resulted in the development value (which had been purchased at high cost) shifting to another site. Consequently, in the words of the Uthwatt Committee, an examination of the town planning maps of some of our most important built-up areas reveals that in many cases they are little more than photographs of existing users and existing lay-outs, which, to avoid the necessity of paying compensation, become perpetuated by incorporation in a statutory scheme irrespective of their suitability or desirability.

These problems increased as the housing boom of the 1930s developed: 2,700,000 houses were built in England and Wales between 1930 and 1940. At the outbreak of war, one-third of all the houses in England

and Wales had been built since 1918. The implications for urbanisation were obvious, particularly in the London area. Between 1919 and 1939 the population of Greater London rose by about two million, of which three-quarters of a million was due to natural increase and over one and a quarter million to migration (Abercrombie 1945). This growth of the metropolis was a force which existing powers were incapable of halting, despite the large body of opinion favouring some degree of control.


The crux of the matter was that the problem of London was closely allied to that of the declining areas of the North and of south Wales, and both were part of the much wider problem of industrial location. In the South-East the insured employed population rose by 44 per cent between 1923 and 1934, but in the NorthEast it fell by 5.5 per cent and in Wales by 26 per cent. In 1934, 8.6 per cent of insured workers in Greater London were unemployed, but in Workington the proportion was 36.3 per cent, in Gateshead 44.2 per cent, and in Jarrow 67.8 per cent. In the early stages of political action these two problems were divorced. For London, various advisory committees were set up and a series of reports issued.1 For the depressed areas, attention was first concentrated on encouraging migration, on training, and on schemes for establishing the unemployed in smallholdings. Increasing unemployment accompanied by rising public concern necessitated further action.2 Special Commissioners were appointed for England and Wales, and for Scotland, with very wide powers for ‘the initiation, organisation, prosecution and assistance of measures to facilitate the economic development and social improvement’ of the special areas. The areas were defined in the Act and included the north-east coast, west Cumberland, industrial south Wales, and the industrial area around Glasgow. The Commissioners’ main task – the attraction of new industry – proved to be extraordinarily difficult, and in his second report Sir Malcolm Stewart, the Commissioner for England and Wales, concluded that ‘there is little prospect of




the special areas being assisted by the spontaneous action of industrialists now located outside these areas’. On the other hand, the attempt actively to attract new industry by the development of trading estates achieved considerable success, which at least warranted the comment of the Scottish Commissioner that there had been ‘sufficient progress to dispel the fallacy that the areas are incapable of expanding their light industries’. Nevertheless, there were still 300,000 unemployed in the special areas at the end of 1938, and although 123 factories had been opened between 1937 and 1938 in the special areas, 372 had been opened in the London area. Sir Malcolm Stewart concluded, in his third annual report, that ‘the further expansion of industry should be controlled to secure a more evenly distributed production’. Such thinking might have been in harmony with the current increasing recognition of the need for national planning, but it called for political action of a character which would have been sensational. Furthermore, as Neville Chamberlain (then Chancellor of the Exchequer) pointed out, even if new factories were excluded from London, it did not necessarily follow that they would forthwith spring up in south Wales or west Cumberland. The immediate answer of the government was to appoint the Royal Commission on the Distribution of the Industrial Population.


The Barlow Report (1940) is of significance not merely because it is an important historical landmark, but also because some of its major recommendations were for long accepted as a basis for planning policy. The terms of reference of the Commission were: to inquire into the causes which have influenced the present geographical distribution of the industrial population of Great Britain and the probable direction of any change in the distribution in the future; to consider what social, economic or strategic disadvantages arise from the concentration of industries or of the industrial population in large towns or in particular areas of the country; and to report what remedial measures if any should be taken in the national interest.

These very wide terms of reference represented, as the Commission pointed out, ‘an important step forward in contemporary thinking’ and, after reviewing the evidence, it concluded that the disadvantages in many, if not most of the great industrial concentrations, alike on the strategical, the social and the economic side, do constitute serious handicaps and even in some respects dangers to the nation’s life and development, and we are of opinion that definite action should be taken by the government towards remedying them.

The advantages of more urban concentration at that time were clear: proximity to markets, reduction of transport costs, and availability of a supply of suitable labour. But these, in the Commission’s view, were accompanied by serious disadvantages such as heavy charges, on account mainly of high site values, loss of time through street traffic congestion, and the risk of adverse effects on efficiency due to long and fatiguing journeys to work. The Commission maintained that the development of garden cities, satellite towns, and trading estates could make a useful contribution towards the solution of the problems of urban congestion. The London area, of course, presented the largest problem, not simply because of its huge size, but also because ‘the trend of migration to London and the Home Counties is on so large a scale and of so serious a character that it can hardly fail to increase in the future the disadvantages already shown to exist’. The problems of London were thus in part related to the problems of the depressed areas: It is not in the national interest, economically, socially or strategically, that a quarter, or even a larger, proportion of the population of Great Britain should be concentrated within twenty to thirty miles or so of Central London. On the other hand, a policy: (i) of balanced distribution of industry and the industrial population so far as possible throughout the different areas or regions in Great Britain; (ii) of appropriate diversification of industries in those areas or regions would tend to make the best national use of the resources of the country, and at the same time would go far to secure for each region or area, through diversification of industry, and variety of employment, some safeguard against severe

THE EVOLUTION OF TOWN AND COUNTRY PLANNING and persistent depression, such as attacks an area dependent mainly on one industry when that industry is struck by bad times.

Such policies could not be carried out by the existing administrative machinery: it was no part of statutory planning to check or to encourage a local or regional growth of population. Planning was essentially on a local basis; it did not, and was not intended to, influence the geographical distribution of the population as between one locality or another. The Commission unanimously agreed that the problems were national in character and required ‘a central authority’ to deal with them. They argued that the activities of this authority ought to be distinct from and extend beyond those of any existing government department. It should be responsible for formulating a plan for dispersal from congested urban areas – determining in which areas dispersal was desirable and whether and where dispersal could be effected by developing garden cities or garden suburbs, satellite towns, trading estates, or the expansion of existing small towns or regional centres. It should be given the right to inspect town planning schemes and ‘to consider, where necessary, in cooperation with the government departments concerned, the modification or correlation of existing or future plans in the national interest’. It should study the location of industry throughout the country with a view to anticipating cases where depression might probably occur in the future and encouraging industrial or public development before a depression actually occurred. Whatever form this central agency might take (a matter on which the Commission could not agree), it was essential that the government should adopt a much more positive role: control should be exercised over new factory-building, at least in London and the Home Counties, that dispersal from the larger conurbations should be facilitated, and that measures should be taken to anticipate regional economic depression.


The Barlow Report was published in January 1940, some four months after the start of the Second World

War. The problem which precipitated the decision to set up the Barlow Commission, that of the depressed areas, rapidly disappeared. The unemployed of the depressed areas now became a powerful national asset. A considerable share of the new factories built to provide munitions or to replace bombed factories were located in these areas. By the end of 1940, ‘an extraordinary scramble for factory space had developed’; and out of all this ‘grew a wartime, an extempore, location of industry policy covering the country as a whole’ (Meynell 1959). This emergency wartime policy, paralleled in other fields, such as hospitals, not only provided some thirteen million square feet of munitions factory space in the depressed areas which could be adapted for civilian industry after the end of the war, but also provided experience in dispersing industry and in controlling industrial location which showed the practicability (under wartime conditions at least) of such policies. The Board of Trade became a central clearing-house of information on industrial sites. During the debates on the 1945 Distribution of Industry Bill, its spokesman stressed: We have collected a great deal of information regarding the relative advantage of different sites in different parts of the country, and of the facilities available there with regard to local supply, housing accommodation, transport facilities, electricity, gas, water, drainage and so on. . . . We are now able to offer to industrialists a service of information regarding location which has never been available before.

Hence, though the Barlow Report ‘lay inanimate in the iron lung of war’,3 it seemed that the conditions for the acceptance of its views on the control of industrial location were becoming very propitious: there is nothing better than successful experience for demonstrating the practicability of a policy. The war thus provided a great stimulus to the extension of regional planning into the sphere of industrial location. This was not the only stimulus it provided: the destruction wrought by bombing transformed ‘the rebuilding of Britain’ from a socially desirable but somewhat visionary and vague ideal into a matter of practical and clear necessity. Nor was this all: the very fact that rebuilding would be taking a large scale provided an unprecedented opportunity for




comprehensive planning of the bombed areas and a stimulus to overall town planning. In the Exeter Plan, Thomas Sharp (1947: 10) urged that to rebuild the city on the old lines . . . would be a dreadful mistake. It would be an exact repetition of what happened in the rebuilding of London after the Fire – and the results, in regret at lost opportunity, will be the same. While, therefore, the arrangements for rebuilding to the new plan should proceed with all possible speed, some patience and discipline will be necessary if the new-built city is to be a city that is really renewed.

Lutyens and Abercrombie (1945: 1) argued that in Hull, there is now both the opportunity and the necessity for an overhaul of the urban structure before undertaking this second refounding of the great Port on the Humber. Due consideration, however urgent the desire to get back to working conditions, must be given to every aspect of town existence. This was the social climate of the war and early postwar years. There was an enthusiasm and a determination to undertake ‘social reconstruction’ (i.e. public-sector intervention) on a scale hitherto considered utopian. The catalyst was, of course, the war itself. At one and the same time war occasions a mass support for the way of life which is being fought for and a critical appraisal of the inadequacies of that way of life. Modern total warfare demands the unification of national effort and a breaking down of social barriers and differences. As Titmuss (1958: 85) noted, it ‘presupposes and imposes a great increase in social discipline; moreover, this discipline is tolerable if, and only if, social inequalities are not intolerable’. On no occasion was this more true than in the Second World War. A new and better Britain was to be built. The feeling was one of intense optimism and confidence. Not only would the war be won, but it would be followed by a similar campaign against the forces of want. That there was much that was inadequate, even intolerable, in prewar Britain had been generally accepted. What was new was the belief that the problems could be tackled in the same way as a military operation. What supreme confidence was evidenced by the setting up in 1941 of committees to consider postwar reconstruction problems: the Uthwatt Committee on Compensation and Better-

ment, the Scott Committee on Land Utilisation in Rural Areas, and the Beveridge Committee on Social Insurance and Allied Services. Perhaps it was Beveridge (1942: 170) who most clearly summed up the spirit of the time, and the philosophy which was to underlie postwar social policy: The Plan for Social Security is put forward as part of a general programme of social policy. It is one part only of an attack upon five great evils: upon the physical Want with which it is directly concerned, upon Disease which often causes Want and brings many other troubles in its train, upon Ignorance which no democracy can afford among its citizens, upon Squalor which arises mainly through haphazard distribution of industry and population, and upon Idleness which destroys wealth and corrupts men, whether they are well fed or not, when they are idle.

It was within this framework of a newly acquired confidence to tackle long-standing social and economic problems that postwar town and country planning policy was conceived. No longer was this to be restricted to town planning ‘schemes’ or regulatory measures. There was now to be the same breadth in official thinking as had permeated the Barlow Report. The attack on squalor was conceived as part of a comprehensive series of plans for social amelioration. To quote the 1944 White Paper The Control of Land Use, ‘provision for the right use of land, in accordance with a considered policy, is an essential requirement of the government’s programme of postwar reconstruction’.


The prewar system of planning was defective in several ways. It was optional on local authorities; planning powers were essentially regulatory and restrictive; such planning as was achieved was purely local in character; the central government had no effective powers of initiative, or of coordinating local plans; and the ‘compensation bogey’, with which local authorities had to cope without any Exchequer assistance, bedevilled the efforts of all who attempted to make the cumbersome planning machinery work. By 1942, 73 per cent of the land in England and 36 per cent of the land in Wales had become subject


to interim development control, but only 5 per cent of England and 1 per cent of Wales were actually subject to operative schemes (Uthwatt Report 1942: 9); and there were several important towns and cities as well as some large country districts for which not even the preliminary stages of a planning scheme had been carried out. Administration was highly fragmented and was essentially a matter for the lower-tier authorities: in 1944 there were over 1,400 planning authorities. Some attempts to solve the problems to which this gave rise were made by the (voluntary) grouping of planning authorities in joint committees for formulating schemes over wide areas, but, though an improvement, this was not sufficiently effective. The new conception of town and country planning underlined the inadequacies. It was generally (and uncritically) accepted that the growth of the large cities should be restricted. Regional plans for London, Lancashire, the Clyde Valley, and south Wales all stressed the necessity of large-scale overspill to new and expanded towns. Government pronouncements echoed the enthusiasm which permeated these plans. Large cities were no longer to be allowed to continue their unchecked sprawl over the countryside. The explosive forces generated by the desire for better living and working conditions would no longer run riot. Suburban dormitories were a thing of the past. Overspill would be steered into new and expanded towns which could provide the conditions people wanted, without the disadvantages inherent in satellite suburban development. When the problems of reconstructing blitzed areas, redeveloping blighted areas, securing a ‘proper distribution’ of industry, developing national parks, and so on are added to the list, there was a clear need for a new and more positive role for the central government, a transfer of powers from the smaller to the larger authorities, a considerable extension of these powers and, most difficult of all, a solution to the compensation–betterment problem. The necessary machinery was provided in the main by the Town and Country Planning Acts, the Distribution of Industry Acts, the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, the New Towns Act and, later, the Town Development Acts. The 1947 Town and Country Planning Act brought

almost all development under control by making it subject to planning permission. Planning was to be no longer merely a regulative function. Development plans were to be prepared for every area in the country. These were to outline the way in which each area was to be developed or, where desirable, preserved. In accordance with the wider concepts of planning, powers were transferred from district councils to county councils. The smallest planning units thereby became the counties and the county boroughs. Coordination of local plans was to be effected by the new Ministry of Town and Country Planning. Development rights in land and the associated development values were nationalised. All the owners were thus placed in the position of owning only the existing (1947) use rights and values in their land. Compensation for development rights was to be paid ‘once and for all’ out of a national fund, and developers were to pay a development charge amounting to 100 per cent of the increase in the value of land resulting from the development. The ‘compensation bogey’ was thus at last to be completely abolished: henceforth development would take place according to ‘good planning principles’. Responsibility for securing a ‘proper distribution of industry’ was given to the Board of Trade. New industrial projects (above a minimum size) would require the board’s certification that the development would be consistent with the proper distribution of industry. More positively, the Board was given powers to attract industries to development areas by loans and grants, and by the erection of factories. New towns were to be developed by ad hoc development corporations financed by the Treasury. Somewhat later, new powers were provided for the planned expansion of towns by local authorities. The designation of national parks and ‘areas of outstanding natural beauty’ was entrusted to a new National Parks Commission, and local authorities were given wider powers for securing public access to the countryside. A Nature Conservancy was set up to provide scientific advice on the conservation and control of natural flora and fauna, and to establish and manage nature reserves. New powers were granted for preserving amenity, trees, historic buildings, and ancient monuments.




Later controls were introduced over river and air pollution, litter, and noise. Indeed, there has been a steady flow of legislation, partly because of increased experience, partly because of changing political perspectives, but perhaps above all because of the changing social and economic climate within which town and country planning operates. The ways in which the various parts of this web of policies operated, and the ways in which both the policies and the machinery have developed since 1947 are summarised in the following chapters. Here a brief overview sets the scene.


The early years of the new system were years of austerity. This was a truly regulatory era, with controls operating over an even wider range of matters than during the war. It had not been expected that there would be any surge in pressures for private development, but even if there were, it was envisaged that these would be subject to the new controls. Additionally, private building was regulated by a licensing system, which was another brake on the private market. Building resources were channelled to local authorities, and (after an initial uncontrolled spurt of private housebuilding) council housebuilding became the major part of the housing programme. The sluggish economy made it relatively easy to operate regulatory controls (since there was little to regulate), but it certainly was not favourable to ‘positive planning’. It had been assumed that most of this positive planning would take the form of public investment, particularly by local authorities and new town development corporations. Housing, town centre renewal, and other forms of ‘comprehensive development’ were seen as essentially public enterprises. This might have been practicable had resources been plentiful, but they were not, and both new building and redevelopment proceeded slowly. Thus, neither the public nor the private sectors made much progress in ‘rebuilding Britain’ (to use one of the slogans which had been popular at the end of the war).

The founders of the postwar planning system foresaw modest economic growth, little population increase (except an anticipated short postwar ‘baby boom’), little migration either internally or from abroad, a balance in economic activity among the regions, and a generally manageable administrative task in maintaining controls. Problems of social security and the initiation of a wide range of social services were at the forefront of attention: welfare for all rather than prosperity for a few was the aim. There was little expectation that incomes would rise, that car ownership would spread, and that economic growth would make it politically possible to declare (as Harold Macmillan later did) that ‘you have never had it so good’. The plans for the new towns were almost lavish in providing one garage for every four houses. The making of plans went ahead at a steady pace, frequently in isolation from wider planning considerations, though the regional offices of the planning ministry made a valiant attempt at coordination; but even here, progress was much slower than expected, and it soon became clear that comprehensive planning would have to be postponed for the sake of immediate development requirements. For a time, the early economic and social assumptions seemed to be borne out, but during the 1950s dramatic changes took place, some of which were the result of the release of pent-up demand that followed the return of the Conservative government in 1951 – a government which was wedded to a ‘bonfire of controls’. One of the first acts of this government in the planning sphere was a symbolic one: a change in the name of the planning ministry – from ‘local government and planning’ to ‘housing and local government’. This reflected the political primacy of housing and the lack of support for ‘planning’ (now viewed, with justification, as restrictive). The regional offices of the planning ministry were abolished, thus saving a small amount of public funds, but also dismantling the machinery for coordination. Though this machinery was modest in scope (and in resources), it was important because there was no other regional organisation to carry out this function. The first change to the 1947 system came in 1953 when, instead of amending the development charge in


the light of experience (as the Labour government had been about to do), the Conservatives abolished it. At about the same time, all building licensing was scrapped. Private housebuilding boomed; and curiously, so did council housebuilding, since the high building targets set by the Conservative government could be met only by an all-out effort by both private and public sectors. The birthrate (which – as expected – dropped steadily from 1948 to the mid-1950s) suddenly started a large and continuing rise. The new towns programme went ahead at a slow pace, accompanied by a constant battle for resources which, so the Treasury argued, were just as urgently needed in the old towns. (The provision of ‘amenities’ was a particular focus of the arguments.) By contrast, public housing estates and private suburban developments mushroomed. Indeed, there was soon a concern that prewar patterns of urban growth were to be repeated. The conflict between town and country moved to centre stage. This was a more difficult matter for the Conservative government than the abolition of building controls, development charges, and other restrictive measures. New policies were forged, foremost of which was the control over the urban fringes of the conurbations and other large cities where an acrimonious war was waged between conservative counties seeking to safeguard undeveloped land and the urban areas in great need of more land for their expanding housebuilding programmes. On the side of the counties was the high priority attached to maintaining good-quality land in agricultural production. On the side of the urban areas was a huge backlog of housing need. The war reached epic proportions in the Liverpool and Manchester areas, where Cheshire fought bitterly ‘to prevent Cheshire becoming another Lancashire’. Similar arguments were used in the west Midlands, where a campaign for new towns (led by the Midland New Towns Society) was complicated by the government view that Birmingham was a rich area from which to move industry to the depressed areas. London, of course, had its ring of new towns, but these were inevitably slow in providing houses for needy Londoners, particularly since tenants were selected partly on the basis of their suitability for the jobs

which had been attracted to the towns. The London County Council therefore, like its provincial counterparts, built houses for ‘overspill’ in what were then called ‘out-county estates’. Similarly, Glasgow and Edinburgh built their ‘peripheral estates’. The pressures for development grew as households increased even more rapidly than population – a littleunderstood phenomenon at the time (Cullingworth 1960a) – and as car ownership spread (the number of cars doubled in the 1950s and doubled again in the following decade). Increased mobility and suburban growth reinforced each other, and new road building began to make its own contribution to the centrifugal forces. Working in the opposite direction was the implacable opposition of the counties. They received a powerful new weapon when Duncan Sandys initiated the green belt circular of 1955. Green belts no longer even had to be green: their function was to halt urban development. Hope that all interests could be appeased was raised by the Town Development Acts (1952 in England, 1957 in Scotland). These provided a neat mechanism for housing urban ‘overspill’ and, at the same time, rejuvenating declining small towns and minimising the loss of agricultural land. But though a number of schemes were (slowly) successful, the local government machinery was generally not equal to such a major regional task. It was this local machinery which was at the root of many of the difficulties. Few politicians wanted to embark on the unpopular task of reforming local government, and even those who appreciated the need for change could not agree on why it was wanted – whether to resolve the urban–rural conflict, to facilitate a more efficient delivery of services, or to provide a system of more effective political units. These and similar issues were grist to the academic mill, but a treacherous area for politicians. Perhaps the biggest surprise here was the decision to go ahead with the reorganisation of London government. The legislation was passed in 1963: this followed (in sequence but not in content) a wide-ranging inquiry. The surprise was not that the recommendations were altered by the political process, but that anything was done at all. One important factor in the politics of the situation




was the desire to abolish the socialist London County Council (though ironically the hoped-for guarantee of a permanent Conservative GLC was dashed by the success of the peripheral districts in maintaining their independence). One effect of the London reorganisation was that further changes elsewhere were taken very seriously. The writing was now on the wall for local government in the rest of the country, and campaigns and countercampaigns proliferated. Three inquiries (for England, Scotland, and Wales) were established by the Labour government which assumed office in 1964. These reported in 1969, but implementation fell to its successor Conservative government. For Scotland, the recommendations were generally accepted (with a twotier system of regions and districts over most of the country). The city-region recommendations for England, however, were unacceptable, and a slimmer two-tier system was adopted. Wales was treated in the same way. The result south of the Border was that the boundaries for the urban–rural strife, though amended in detail, were basically unchanged in character. It would be only a matter of time before a further reorganisation was seen to be necessary. What followed is discussed in Chapter 3, but it is clear that the story is a continuing one.


In the meantime, truly alarming population projections had appeared which transformed the planning horizon. The population at the end of the century had been projected in 1960 at 64 million; by 1965 the projection had increased to 75 million. At the same time, migration and household formation had added to the pressures for development and the need for an alternative to expanding suburbs and ‘peripheral estates’. It seemed abundantly clear that a second generation of new towns was required. Between 1961 and 1971, fourteen additional new towns were designated. Some, like Skelmersdale and Redditch, were ‘traditional’ in the sense that their purpose was to house people from the conurbations. Others, such as Livingston and Irvine, had the additional

function of being growth points in a comprehensive regional programme for central Scotland. One of the most striking characteristics of the last new towns to be designated was their huge size. In comparison with the Reith Committee’s optimum of 30,000 to 50,000, Central Lancashire’s 500,000 seemed massive. But size was not the only striking feature. Another was the fact that four of them were based on substantial existing towns: Northampton, Peterborough, Warrington, and Central Lancashire (Preston-Leyland). Of course, townbuilding had been going on for a long time in Britain, and all the best sites may have already been taken by what had become old towns. The time was bound to come when the only places left for new towns were the sites of existing towns. There were, however, other important factors. First, the older towns were in need of rejuvenation and a share in the limited capital investment programme. Second, there was the established argument that nothing succeeds like success; or, to be more precise, a major development with a population base of 80,000 to 130,000 or more had a flying start over one with a mere 5,000 to 10,000. A wide range of facilities was already available, and (it was hoped) could be readily expanded at the margin. No sooner had all this been settled than the population projections were drastically revised downwards. It was too late to reverse the new new towns programme, though it was decided not to go ahead with Ipswich (and Stonehouse was killed by the opposition of Strathclyde because of its irrelevance to the problems of the rapidly declining economy of Clydeside). However, the reduced population growth prevented some problems becoming worse, though little respite was apparent at the time. Household formation continued apace, as did car ownership and migration. The resulting pressures on the South-East were severe – and have remained so, with little resolution of the difficulties of ‘land allocation’.


While much political energy was spent on dealing with urban growth, even more intractable problems of


urban decay forced their attention on government. Every generation, it seems, has to rediscover poverty for itself, and the postwar British realisation came in the late 1960s (Sinfield 1973). As usual, there were several strands: the reaction against inhuman slum clearance and high-density redevelopment; the impact of these and of urban motorways on communities (‘get us out of this hell’, cried the families living alongside the elevated M4 (Goodman 1972)); and fear of racial unrest (inflamed by the speeches of Enoch Powell). These issues went far beyond even the most ambitious definition of ‘planning’, and they posed perplexing problems of the coordination of policies and programmes. Not surprisingly, the response was anything but coordinated, and programmes proliferated in confusion. Housing policy was the clearest field of policy development. Slum clearance had been abruptly halted at the beginning of the Second World War, when demolitions were running at the rate of 90,000 a year. It was resumed in the mid-1950s, and steadily rose towards its prewar peak. Both the scale of this clearance and its insensitivity to community concerns, as well as the inadequate character of some redevelopment schemes, led to an increasing demand for a reappraisal of the policy. Added force was given to this by the growing realisation that demolition alone could not possibly cope with the huge amount of inadequate housing – and the continuing deterioration of basically sound housing. Rent control had played a part in this tide of decay, and halting steps were taken to ameliorate its worst effects, though not with much success. More effective was the introduction of policies to improve, rehabilitate, and renovate older housing: changing terminology reflected constant refinements of policy. Increasingly, it was realised that ad hoc improvements to individual houses were of limited impact: area rehabilitation paid far higher dividends, particularly in encouraging individual improvement efforts. A succession of area programmes have made a significant impact on some older urban neighbourhoods, but a considerable problem remains; and it is debatable whether the overall position is improving or deteriorating.

Housing policies have typically been aimed at the physical fabric of housing and the residential environment. Their impact on people generally, and the poor in particular, has been less than housing reformers had hoped (the lessons of earlier times being ignored). This realisation followed a spate of social inquiries, of which The Poor and the Poorest by Brian Abel-Smith and Peter Townsend (published in 1965) was a landmark in raising public concern. A bewildering rush of programmes was promoted by the Home Office (including the urban programme in 1968, community development projects in 1969, and comprehensive community programmes in 1974), the DoE (urban guidelines in 1972, area management trials in 1974, and ‘the policy for the inner cities’ in 1977), the Department of Education (educational priority areas in 1968), and the DHSS (cycle of deprivation studies in 1973). This list is by no means complete, but it demonstrates the almost frantic search for effective policies in fields which had hitherto largely been left to local effort. Despite all this, the problems of the ‘inner cities’ (a misnomer, since some of the deprived areas were on the periphery of cities) grew apace. The most important factors were the rapid rate of deindustrialisation and the massive movement of people and jobs to outer areas and beyond. Unlike in the interwar years, the problems were not restricted to the ‘depressed areas’: the South-East, previously the source for moving employment to the north, was badly affected. In absolute (rather than percentage) terms, London suffered severely (losing three-quarters of a million manufacturing jobs between 1961 and 1984; Hall 1992: 150). There was initially little difference between the two main political parties here: both were searching for solutions which continued to evade them. Lessons from the USA indicated that more money alone was not sufficient, and academic writers pointed to the need for societal changes, but there were few politically helpful ideas around. Following a period in which the problems were seen in terms of social pathology, attention was increasingly directed to ‘structural’ issues, particularly of the local economy. In the 1980s the Conservative government put its faith in releasing




enterprise, though it was never clear how this would benefit the poor. New initiatives included urban development corporations, modelled on the new town development corporations but with a different, private enterprise ethic. The London Docklands UDC seemed almost determined to ignore, if not override, the community in which it was located, but this attitude eventually changed, and both the LDDC and later UDCs became more attuned to local needs and feelings. Indeed, later policies are characterised by an attempt to be much more sensitive to human needs, with an emphasis on ‘bottom-up’ planning.


The issue of land values was addressed by both the two later Labour governments. In the 1964–70 administration, the Land Commission was established to buy development land at a price excluding a part of the development value and to levy a betterment charge on private sales. Its life and promise were cut short by the incoming Conservative government. Exactly the same happened with the community land scheme and the development land tax introduced by the 1974–79 Labour government. Thus, there were three postwar attempts to wrestle with the problem, and none was given an adequate chance to work. For a time, attention focused on land availability studies. These became a time-demanding ritual for planners, later transformed when increased household projections in the 1990s widened and intensified the debate. The abandonment of attempts to solve ‘the betterment problem’ (which may no longer even be perceived as a problem) is more than a matter of land taxation or even equity. The so-called ‘financial provisions’ of the 1947 Act underpinned the whole system, and made positive planning a real possibility. Though it seems unlikely that the issue will return to the political agenda in the foreseeable future, it should not be forgotten that this vital piece of the planning machinery is missing. Planning is therefore essentially a servant of the market (in the sense that it comes into operation only when market operations are set in motion). This change, made some forty years ago, is far more

fundamental than the high-profile changes made under the Thatcher regime. Whether ‘planning gain’ can be made the basis of a new approach remains to be seen.


The theme of the Conservative era which began in 1979 was a commitment to ‘releasing enterprise’. This was translated into a miscellany of policies which had little in the way of a coherent underlying philosophy, but which could be characterised in terms of removing particular barriers that were identified as holding back initiative. The identified problems ranged from inner-city landholding by public bodies (dealt with by requiring publicising of the vacant land, which would thereby automatically trigger a market use); to the ‘wasteful’ and ‘unnecessary’ tier of metropolitan government in London and the provincial conurbations (simply abolished). Many areas of public activity were privatised, large parts of government were hived off to executive agencies, and compulsory competitive tendering was imposed on local government. The emphasis on ‘market orientation’ and the concerted attack (regrettably, the word is not an exaggeration) on local government had some strange results. More power was vested in central government and its agencies. Public participation was reduced. But, though the planning system was affected in tangible ways (Thornley 1993), in no sense was it dismantled, or even changed in any really significant way. True, it was bypassed (by UDCs); its procedures were modified (by government circulars, and changes in the General Development and Use Classes Orders); development plans were, for a time, downgraded, and threatened with severe curtailment; and simplified planning zones were introduced: a system in which ‘simplification’ meant less planning control, but might involve even more human resources in negotiation. The list can be extended, but the rhetoric which preceded and accompanied the changes was harsher than the changes themselves. Moreover, the language of confrontation which the politicians employed disguised the fact that previous governments had done similar things, even if more sotto voce. The development


corporation initiative, for example, was essentially the brainchild of a much earlier period, and indeed, as applied to redevelopment (as distinct from new town development), had for long been proposed by socialists as a means of assisting local authorities. Some of the early days of the UDC flagship; the London Docklands Development Corporation, were characterised by an excess of zeal, a lack of understanding of the way in which the administration of government is different from the administration of business, and an authoritarian style which was widely – and justifiably – criticised. Time, however, mellowed misplaced enthusiasm, and brought about a better understanding of the inherent slowness of democratic government. There was also a keener awareness of the need to pay attention to the ‘social’ issues of the locality as well as its physical regeneration. More generally, an old lesson was relearned: it is extremely difficult for one level of government to impose its will on another unless it has some broad and powerful support from outside, as well as willing cooperation inside. (There is, however, the draconian alternative of simply abolishing a wayward layer of local government, as was done with the Greater London Council and the metropolitan county councils.) An about-turn on structure plans illustrates the pragmatic nature (what some call the flexibility and others the inconsistency) of the Conservative government’s thinking. The initial decision to abolish them was one option for dealing with a problem which dates back to 1947: how to ensure that plans provide (without overwhelming detail) sufficient guidance for the land use planning of an area, while being adaptable to unforeseen changing circumstances. The option actually adopted was a ‘streamlining’ – not unlike earlier attempts. The 1965 Planning Advisory Group report had highlighted the problem: ‘It has proved extremely difficult to keep these plans not only up to date but forward looking and responsive to the demands of change.’ Twenty years later, the 1985 White Paper Lifting the Burden was in a similar key: ‘There is cause for concern that this process of plan review and up-dating is becoming too slow and cumbersome.’ More effective structure plans require a framework of regional policy.

In the 1990s, this began to be accepted and, following the election of the Blair government, regional policy moved to centre stage.


All governments operate with some degree of pragmatism: electoral politics force this upon them. So it was with the 1979–97 Conservative government. After many years of relegating environmental issues to a low level of concern, there was a sudden conversion to environmentalism in 1988. This was heralded in a remarkable speech by Mrs Thatcher in which she declared that Conservatives were the guardians and trustees of the earth. At base, this reflected a heightening of public concern for the environment which is partly local and partly global. The action which followed looks impressive (though critics have been less impressed by the results). A 1990 White Paper, This Common Inheritance, spelled out the government’s environmental strategy over a comprehensive range of policy areas (untypically, this covered the whole of the UK). Environmental protection legislation was passed, ‘integrated pollution control’ is being implemented, ‘green ministers’ have been appointed to oversee the environmental implications of their departmental functions, and new environmental regulation agencies have been established. The latter follow a spate of organisational changes which remind one of the old saying: ‘when in doubt, reorganise’. But there are difficult issues here which, though they include organisational matters, go much deeper. Questions about the protection of the environment underline a perhaps (to the layperson) surprising ignorance of the workings of ecosystems at the local, national, and global levels. Additionally, new questions of ethics have come to the fore. Difficult problems of deciding among alternative courses of action are rendered ever more complex. Cost–benefit analysis is of little help: indeed, all forms of economic reasoning are being challenged. International pressures have played a role here, as, of course, has the coming of age of the EU. This has added a new dimension to the politics of the environment (and much else as well).




Concern for historic preservation (now embraced in the term ‘heritage’) is of much longer standing. Though many historic buildings were destroyed during the Second World War, the more effective stimulus to preservation came from the clearance, redevelopment, renewal, and road-building policies which got under way in the 1950s and accelerated rapidly. As with housing, the emphasis has been mainly on individual historic structures, but a conservation area policy was ushered in by the Civic Amenities Act 1967, sponsored by a private member (Duncan Sandys), though with wide support. This proved a popular measure, and there are now over 9,000 of them. Indeed, there has been mounting concern that too many areas are designated, and too few resources applied to their upkeep and management. The 1983 National Heritage Act bore a modern name that signified a new and wider appreciation of the historical legacy. A new executive agency, English Heritage (formally called the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England), was established and took over many of the functions previously housed within the DoE. In Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, rather different administrative solutions were devised, as befits the distinctive character of these parts of the UK. Unfortunately, the new environmental and historical awareness was too late in raising sufficient concern about transport to bring about any significant change from a preoccupation with catering for the car.


Transport policy has traditionally been largely equated with road-building policy, and protests that alternatives need to be considered have been unavailing until recently. On a number of issues, however, the protests could not be ignored. One has already been mentioned: the brutal impact of urban motorways on the communities through which they passed. The outcry against this led to a reassessment of both the location of urban roads and their necessity. Compensation for ‘distress’ caused by new roads was

increased as part of a policy labelled (in a 1972 White Paper) ‘putting people first’. Closely related was a growing concern about the inadequacy of the road inquiry process, which resulted in a significant improvement of the provisions for public participation. These and other changes curbed but did not allay the concerns: indeed, they are still being voiced. The turning point came in 1989 when new forecasts of huge increases in car ownership and use were published. It was widely considered to be impossible to accommodate the forecast amount of traffic satisfactorily. The results of a change in attitude were working their way through the political system before the era of ‘integrated transport planning’. Traffic calming became part of the contemporary vocabulary (and is now statutorily enshrined); road pricing moved onto the agenda for serious discussion (but little action); and road-building was slashed. This extraordinary reversal of the long standing policy of building roads to meet the demand for them started under the Conservative government. It reflected that government’s interpretation of public attitudes to road-building, which nicely attuned with the political objective of reducing tax-related expenditure. In this area at least, a bankruptcy of political ideas (for which persuasive alternatives were sadly in short supply) led firmly into the doldrums.


The countryside has always been dear to hearts of conservatives, though support for the protection and enjoyment of the countryside has traditionally cut across party and class lines. Increasing concern for the rural landscape, growing use of the countryside for recreation (and investment), and huge changes in the fortunes of the agricultural industry have transformed the arena of debate of rural land use. At the end of the Second World War, and for many years afterwards, the greatest importance was attached to the promotion of agriculture. There were, however, established movements for countryside conservation and recreation, some of which came together with the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act of 1949


(but a separate Nature Conservancy Council was also established, thus dividing the conservancy function). The pressures for conservation and for recreation have varied over time, and the balance between them is inevitably an ongoing problem, particularly in areas of easy access (which now include most of the country). Limited budgets held back incipient pressures in the early postwar years, but increasing real incomes and mobility led to mounting pressures which were acknowledged in the 1966 White Paper Leisure in the Countryside and the 1968 Countryside Act. This replaced the National Parks Commission with a Countryside Commission which was given wider powers and improved finance. At the same time, the powers of local authorities were expanded to include, for instance, the provision of country parks. Unlike national parks, these were not necessarily places of beauty, but were intended primarily for enjoyment. They were also seen as having the added advantage of taking some of the pressure off the national parks and similar areas where added protection was needed. The 1972 reorganisation of local government was accompanied by a requirement that local authorities which were responsible for national parks should establish a separate committee and appoint a park planning officer. The modesty of this provision was clearly a compromise between concerns for local government and for the planning of national parks. It was a step forward, but an enduring case for ad hoc park authorities remained. Local authorities had too many local interests to satisfy to give adequate resources for national parks – whose very name indicated their much wider role. The growth of pressures on the parks continued, and the administrative knot was finally cut when the Environment Act 1995 provided for the establishment of ad hoc national park authorities for all the parks. More widely, a long-standing debate continued on the divided organisational arrangements for nature conservation and amenity, and for scientific conservation and wildlife. In England that separation continues (on the basis of arguments which are not easy to follow), but in Scotland and Wales the responsibilities are now vested in single bodies: Scottish Natural Heritage and the Countryside Council for

Wales. Of particular note was the first outcome of Scottish thinking on integrated countryside planning, which built upon the simple (but rarely used) notion that all countryside activities ‘are based on use, in one way or another, of the natural heritage’. This thought has passed into the realm of ‘ideas in good currency’, and it is echoed in three highly coloured White Papers on the countryside issued in 1995 and 1996.


The flood of proposals, discussion documents, consultation documents, and legislation from the Blair government would justify a separate book, rather than a note towards the end of this chapter. However, important matters are discussed, or at least mentioned, at appropriate points later. Here a note is made of some of the outstanding features, in so far as they relate to town and country planning (generously defined). It is on constitutional matters that the most dramatic changes have been made. Not only have devolution proposals been made, but they have been passed into law, and both the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales are operational. It is too early to comment on what the impacts on planning may be, though some preliminary indications are discussed in relevant chapters. Scotland in particular is engaged on some thoroughgoing reviews, while Wales (where the advent of devolution was uncertain) has already produced a number of planning statements. Sadly, the Northern Ireland situation has proved too problematic for resolution and, at the time of writing, it is unclear whether the devolution plans will go ahead.4 One of the unknowns in these constitutional changes is their impact on England. There was already a consensus that regional planning needed more direction than it was getting through the regional planning guidance system. The Blair government rapidly made moves on two fronts. First, regional planning guidance was given a new lease of life, with a ‘bottom-up’ involvement of local government and




other ‘regional stakeholders’. The aim now is to produce a more comprehensive and integrated spatial strategy, with coverage of a wider range of issues, including regeneration and transportation. Regional planning guidance has also ‘gone public’: examinations in public were held in 1999 on the first of the new generation of regional planning guidance (East Anglia and the South-East). Secondly, Regional Development Agencies were established and are already producing regional strategies. Though these bodies are appointed by and responsible to the Secretary of State, regional assemblies are developing which will provide ‘stakeholder’ input, and, it is to be hoped, a much-needed link between economic planning and land use planning. Things are happening rapidly on this front, and the outcome is by no means clear, but it seems that the regional planning dimensions are now becoming central to both land use and economic policies (even though the relationships between the two are problematic). A possible resolution may lie in a political move towards regionalism. The possibility of regional devolution is explicitly embraced in the Labour Party manifesto, and there are signs of a reawakening and strengthening of regional consciousness. There is also an expressed concern that, whereas the Scottish members of the House of Commons can vote on English domestic affairs, English members cannot do likewise on devolved Scottish affairs. There is no simple answer to this question (which Gladstone unsuccessfully wrestled with in the controversy on Irish Home Rule a century ago), but it remains to be seen which way political currents go.5 The position is further complicated by the appointment of an elected mayor for London, and the possibility that some provincial cities may seek the same, particularly since there is legislation in the pipeline which would provide precisely for this.6 The course of events will be interesting to follow. The most problematic political issue in regional planning is the allocation of land for new housing. This was a very troublesome issue for the Conservative government of 1979–97, and it is proving no less so for its successor. A major commitment has been made to increase the proportion of ‘brownfield’ sites, with an

aspirational target of 60 per cent. Such targets have little rationale or credibility at the national level, but they concentrate effort and they also have political value. A revised PPG 3 on housing includes a ‘sequential’ method for identifying housing sites. It is the government’s hope that the new regional planning guidance system will create the framework for agreement on housing figures without too much intervention by the Secretary of State. It is unclear whether this hope may be fulfilled. How far it will be possible to increase (and accelerate) the development of brownfield sites is equally unclear despite the stimulation of Lord Rogers’ Urban Task Force Report of 1999.7 Devolution is not the only constitutional issue with which the Blair government has dealt. The European Convention on Human Rights has been incorporated into British law (which the previous government refused to do). However, though it passed the Human Rights Act (see 1997 White Paper Rights Brought Home), it has not yet accepted the need for a Human Rights Commission to advise and monitor the legislation.8 The Act guarantees a number of basic rights and freedoms, including freedom from discrimination and the right to the peaceful enjoyment of property. In effect, the Act marks an increase in the power of the courts over Parliament. Judges will be looking beyond the letter of the law to its substance. There will be a greater role for judicial review, with a concern for the merits of a decision rather than the fairness of the way in which it was reached.9 The power of Britain’s domestic government is also curtailed by membership of the European Union. The direct impacts of membership on town and country planning are limited so far, though the indirect influence of Community competences in regional policy, environment, transport, and other fields is important (Nadin 1999). Environmental policy, in particular, owes much to cooperation with other EU countries and Community legislation. The regional debate too is now strongly influenced by Community policies. The new regional planning guidance is adopting the notion of spatial planning, embracing a wider concern for the integration of sectoral policies around a territorial strategy. This is not unknown in the UK, of course,


but it is now strongly advocated in the European Spatial Development Perspective, presented by the Committee on Spatial Development to the meeting of ministers of regional/spatial planning at Potsdam in 1999. Financial incentives through Community initiatives are tempting more planners to experiment with crossnational planning and exchange of experience, and government departments are looking to other countries for ideas for the ‘Modernising Planning’ agenda. Increasing interdependence among the EU states may mean that transnational planning strategies (now commonplace elsewhere in Europe) will become accepted for the UK. Yet another change has a major constitutional character: a strikingly new attitude to local government. In a ‘commitment to the fundamental principles of local government’, the government ratified in 1998 the European Charter of Local Self-Government (which the previous government rejected). It has legislated for a Greater London Authority with an elected mayor; it has abolished compulsory competitive tendering; and it has published a stream of proposals for modernising the structures to which local government has so long adhered (including new provisions for the consideration of planning applications). It has also promised a new duty (not just a power) for local authorities to promote the economic, social, and environmental well-being of their areas. (On the other hand, exactly the opposite philosophy underlies the centralisation of education policy and even of teaching methods. Large areas of educational practice are now the subject of detailed direction.) This paradox is not evident in Scotland, where the Executive has gone even further in its ‘renewal’ of local government. It has, for example, embraced local government as a partner ‘in a shared duty to serve the public’ (McIntosh Report 1999, para. 11). It has also embarked on designing new concepts of ‘community planning’. Devolution is freeing up thinking on a number of fronts, including the right of public access to the Scottish countryside, and a tentative start has been made on reducing the concentration of land ownership by way of enabling ‘community bodies’ to buy rural land. Finally, in this selective list of initiatives, mention

must be made of the commitment to an integrated transport policy, which has proved more elusive than expected. Rural policies have also presented serious difficulties as they have been beset by political controversy over hunting and the right to roam. A programme for ‘Modernising Planning’ is making more progress. Like many of the issues touched upon in this rapid survey, it is discussed in relevant chapters.


It is now well over half a century since the postwar planning system was put into place. Major changes have taken place during this time in society, the economy, and the political scene – some of which have been touched upon in this rapid overview. In these shifting sands, ‘town and country planning’ has grown into (or been submerged by) a series of different policy areas which defy description, let alone coordination. Yet ‘planning’ is nothing if not a coordinative function, and the frenetic activity in reorganising machinery which has absorbed so much energy in the past fifty years must, at some point, give way to substantive progress. The difficulty lies in determining the direction in which this lies. One thing is clear: some of the most important underlying problems are well beyond any conceivable scope of ‘planning’: for example, much urban change has been due to global forces which are currently beyond any political control. Multinationals and international finance were not in the standard vocabulary in the early postwar years. Planners find it easier to think in terms of ‘need’. In recent years they have been forced to recast some of their thinking in ‘market’ terms. But could they ever come to terms with the workings of the property investment market? As many studies have shown, ‘the channelling of money to promote new urban development is determined not by need or demand, but by the relative profitability of alternative investments’ (Bateman 1985: 32) – which may be in different sectors, such as industrial equities, or in quite different geographical locations. Much private-sector development is now ‘driven more by investment demand and suppliers’ decisions than by




final user demand – and even less by any sort of final user needs’ (Edwards 1990: 175). This widening gap between land use development and ‘needs’ throws considerable doubt on the adequacy of a planning system which is based on the assumption that land uses can be predicted and appropriate amounts of land ‘allocated’ for specific types of use. Overriding all other pressing considerations, of course, is the state of the economy. (It is little comfort that so many other countries share the same problem.) One result has been a strengthening of the ‘partnership’ philosophy which has gradually grown over the past two decades. The term now means more than coordination of the efforts of different agencies: it implies that planning has to embrace the agents of the market, and adapt a regulatory system of planning to the need for negotiation. At the least, risks are shared. The implications of all this are not clear. Though an obvious response may be to try harder to identify emerging trends, this is more difficult to do than ever before. Economic and social trends seem as unpredictable as the weather or the course of scientific inquiry. Comprehensive planning based on firm predictions of the future course of events is now clearly impossible. Incrementalism is the order of the day, and Burnham’s famous aphorism (‘make no little plans’) has now been turned on its head: ‘make no big plans’. But planners have always strained for unattainable goals, whether they be frankly utopian or simply overenthusiastic. Contemporary plans are more practicable in this regard than many earlier ones. The plans prepared at the end of the Second World War were often quite unrealistic in the assumptions that were made about the availability (and control) of resources – though that did not prevent them being very influential in moulding planning ideas. As noted in the previous chapter, the Greater London Development Plan was replete with policies over which the GLC had no control (Centre for Environmental Studies 1970). It remains to be seen whether the lesson has been learned – or whether some currently unpredictable change will transform the future. Be that as it may, there seems little doubt that in the perpetual planning conflict between flexibility and certainty, the former is the clear winner.


Though the Barlow and Uthwatt reports are seldom read these days, they are well worth at least a perusal. Like other reports of the time (particularly Beveridge), they give an insight into the spirit of the times which produced the planning system. Hennessy (1992) narrates this wonderfully in Never Again: Britain 1945–1951. A little-known but insightful essay is Titmuss (1958) ‘War and social policy’. An excellent account over a longer period (1890–1994) is given by Ward (1994) Planning and Urban Change. Two of Hall’s books are also essential reading: Cities of Tomorrow (1988) and Urban and Regional Planning (1992). Ashworth (1954) The Genesis of Modern British Town Planning is a thorough account up to the passing of the 1947 Act. A clear exposition of the (original) 1947 Act is given by Wood (1949), a civil servant who was heavily involved in drafting the legislation. Cherry (1996) Town Planning in Britain since 1900: The Rise and Fall of the Planning Ideal carries the story up to date, while his Evolution of British Town Planning (1974) incorporates a history of the planning profession and its Institute. A review entitled British Planning: 50 Years of Urban and Regional Policy is edited by Cullingworth (1999). A number of earlier writers are quoted in the text or in the endnotes, as are several of the wartime and postwar plans. LeGates has edited a useful selection of writings entitled Early Urban Planning 1870–1940. Analyses and commentaries on the operation of the planning system rapidly become out of date. Among the books and articles published in the past fifteen years are Ambrose (1986) Whatever Happened to Planning?; Reade (1987) British Town and Country Planning; Healey et al. (1988) Land Use Planning and the Mediation of Change; Simmie (1994) Planning London; Adams (1994) Urban Planning and the Development Process; Thornley (1993) Urban Planning under Thatcherism: The Challenge of the Market; Ambrose (1994) Urban Process and Power; Allmendinger (1997) Thatcherism and Planning; Taylor (1998) Urban Planning Theory since 1945; Davies (1998) ‘Continuity and change: the evolution of the British planning system 1947–97’; Allmendinger and Chapman (1999)


Planning beyond 2000; and Vigar et al. (2000) Planning, Governance and Spatial Strategy in Britain. There are a large number of White Papers and consultation documents published by the Blair Government. Among these are Modern Local Government: In Touch with the People (Cm 4014, 1998); Modernising Government (Cm 4310, 1999); and Local Leadership: Local Choice (Cm 4298, 1999). Recent revisions of planning policy guidance are listed at the end of the book.


1 Royal Commission on the Local Government of Greater London (1921–3), the London and Home Counties Traffic Advisory Committee (1924), the Greater London Regional Planning Committee (1927), the Standing Conference on London Regional Planning (1937), as well as ad hoc committees and inquiries, for example, on Greater London Drainage (1935) and a Highway Development Plan (Bressey Plan, 1938). 2 Government ‘investigators’ were appointed and, following their reports, the Depressed Areas Bill was introduced in November 1934, to pass (after the Lords had amended the title) as the Special Areas (Development and Improvement) Act. 3 The phrase was coined by Alix Meynell, a senior official in the Board of Trade; see Meynell (1959). 4 Following the Good Friday Agreement of April 1998, the UK and Irish governments passed legislation on referendums on the Agreement. These gave a clear endorsement by the electorates of both Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. The agreement provides for devolution to an elected Assembly of legislative and executive powers for all matters which are currently the responsibility of the six Northern Ireland departments (thus including environmental and planning policies). Additionally, a North–South Ministerial Council will deal with matters of mutual interest.

5 In the North-East a Constitutional Convention (chaired by the Bishop of Durham) was established in April 1999. Inspired by Scottish experience, this has ‘set itself the task of agreeing a scheme for an elected assembly and ensuring the widest possible agreement on the scheme’. In Yorkshire and Humberside a campaign for ‘Yorkshire Democracy’ was launched in March 1999. ‘These regional campaigns have recently formed the Campaign for the English Regions, designed to coordinate and extend the efforts in the individual regions’ (Tomaney and Mitchell, 1999). See also the material available through the English Regional Associations web site . Other references are given in the following chapter. 6 Bogdanor (1999: 275) has argued that ‘such mayors would constitute a powerful force against devolution to the regions since regional assemblies would be likely to detract from their authority’. 7 Towards an Urban Renaissance. This is discussed in Chapter 6. 8 Such a body could also scrutinise proposed legislation, train lawyers, provide legal representation for test cases, and initiate its own cases. See Spencer and Bynoe (1998). 9 The Human Rights Act is currently thought unlikely to have much impact on the planning world. Nevertheless, there are areas where it could have significant impacts, particularly where discretion or personal liberty is involved. See Corner (1999) and Upton (1999). One author has speculated that the hearing and determination of local plan objections may well be in breach of the Convention’s provisions relating to civil rights and the entitlement ‘to a fair and a public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law’. See Kitson (1999), and also the succinct account by Johnston (1999b).




What the Community is doing, and the ways in which it is developing, will affect planning in Britain, as it will affect planning in every other Member State of the Community; through its direct and indirect impact on planning policies and legislation . . . and in the constraints which it may impose, but, more significantly, in the opportunities which it will open up for the development of planning practice. (Davies and Gosling 1994)


The impact of the European Union (EU) on town and country planning has been felt predominantly in the field of environmental controls rather than in mainstream planning practice. The most striking example is environmental impact assessment. In coming years, the influence of Europe will increase, and especially so in cross-border and transnational spatial planning. Later chapters identify a range of agricultural, environmental, economic, and regional policies of the EU which are having an effect on parts of the British planning system. Chapter 4 includes a note on supranational and cross-border planning instruments and policies that are being introduced at the European level. Here a brief and more general account is given of important EU institutions and actions.


The UK was not an enthusiastic supporter of the postwar moves towards a federal Europe. Though it favoured intergovernmental cooperation through such bodies as the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation (set up 1948) and the Council of Europe (1949), it was opposed to the establishment of organisations which would facilitate functional cooperation alongside nation-states. It therefore did not join the European Coal and Steel Community (1952), nor was it a signatory to the 1955 Treaty of Rome, which established the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community. However, along with the other members of the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation, it formed the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) in 1960. Britain envisaged that EFTA would form the base for the development of stronger links with Europe. When it became clear that this was not viable, Britain applied for membership of the European Community. This was opposed by France and, since membership requires the unanimous approval of existing members, negotiations


broke down. The opposition continued until a political change took place in France in 1969. Renewed negotiations led finally to membership at the beginning of 1973. The Treaty of Accession provided for transitional arrangements for the implementation of the Treaty of Rome, which Britain agreed to accept in its entirety. The objectives include the elimination of customs duties between member states and of restrictions on the free movement of goods; the free movement of people, services, and capital between member states; the adoption of common agricultural and transport policies; and the approximation of the laws of member states to the extent required for the proper functioning of the common market. These objectives are often referred to as the ‘four freedoms’: the free movement of goods, people, services, and capital. There are fifteen members of the EU: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, the Republic of Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Thirteen more countries have applied for membership.1 The EU has a population of 363 million and a land area of over 3.2 million square kilometres. Compared to the USA, this is about 50 per cent more people living on just over a third of the space. The EU is also easily the world’s largest trading bloc, having a share of exports more than three times its nearest rivals of the USA and Japan. The organisational and political structure of the EU is complex and, as with all such bodies, its actual workings are somewhat different from the formal organisation chart. The main institutions of the EU and their elements which are of particular interest to planning are shown in Figure 3.1. In brief, there is an elected Parliament which operates as an advisory body, and a Council of Ministers which is the legislature and makes policy largely on the basis of proposals made by the European Commission, which is the executive. There is also a Court of Justice which adjudicates matters of legal interpretation and alleged violations of Community law. The distribution between Parliament and the executive is very different from that in most national governments.


A summit of heads of state or government of the member states, together with the President of the European Commission, provides general political direction for the European Union, considers fundamental questions related to the ‘constitution’ and construction of the EU, and makes decisions on the most contentious issues (Dinan 1998). It is not the legislature – that is the function of the Council of the European Union. Decisions which require legislation have to go through the normal EU legislation process, but agreements and declarations reached in the European Council are binding on the EU institutions, and have been critical in shaping the evolution of the EU. The Council is usually held twice a year, once under each six-month Presidency.


The main policy-making body of the EU is the Council of Ministers. This is the legislature of the Community, a task it shares for some matters with the European Parliament. Unlike most other legislatures it is indirectly elected – being composed of representatives elected in the member states – and it deliberates in private. These characteristics have given rise to the criticism of ‘democratic deficit’ in comparison to national legislatures and the European Parliament, which is directly elected and debates in public. But the characteristics reflect the fundamental nature of the EU as a pooling of national sovereignties and legislative powers. These require complex negotiation among the member states, rather than a federal structure with a unitary legislature. The Council has many committees and working groups with various functions and membership, such as the Council of Ministers for the Environment or for Agriculture. There is a Council meeting of some sort every working week, often lasting for three days, and 100,000 documents are produced by the Council each year (Dinan 1998: 106). Representatives are usually senior ministers of national government, although




Figure 3.1 Institutions of the European Union and Spatial Planning


regional ministers may also represent the country concerned, a point which may become more significant for the UK as devolution starts to bite. The criterion is that the representative must be authorised to commit the member state to the decisions made. There is no formal Council of Ministers responsible for planning but, since 1991, there have been biannual informal meetings of ministers responsible for spatial planning. A Committee on Spatial Development (CSD) consists of officials representing the planning ministries of member countries operating under the auspices of the informal meeting of ministers.2 The UK has been represented on the CSD by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and the Scottish Office. It is the CSD that has taken the most important action on European planning in preparing the European Spatial Development Perspective, which is discussed in Chapter 4. The Council (in some cases in cooperation with the European Parliament) can make three main types of legislation. Regulations have direct effect and are binding throughout the EU. They require no additional implementing legislation in the member states and are used mostly for detailed matters of a financial nature or for the technical aspects of (for example) administering the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). By contrast, directives provide framework legislation which, though equally binding, is implemented by national legislation. This leaves a degree of choice over the method of implementation to the member states. Environmental matters are typically dealt with in this way. The Council can also issue decisions which are binding on the member state, organisation, firm, or individual to whom they are addressed. Finally, there are recommendations and opinions, which have no binding force. The work of the Council of Ministers is supported by officials in the Council of Permanent Representatives (COREPER). These are civil servants of the member states. Indeed, it has been argued that COREPER is where the real decisions are made. It is the officials who conduct often very lengthy negotiations to reach agreement about measures among the member states before proposals are put before the ministers.


The main work of the EU is undertaken by the executive of the Community, the European Commission. The Commission is a major driving force within the EU because it has the primary right to initiate legislation. It prepares proposals for decision by the Council, and oversees their implementation. (Only rarely can the Council of Ministers make a policy decision without a proposal from the Commission.) The Community’s decision-making process is dominated by the search for consensus among the member states, and this gives the Commission a crucially important role in mediation and conciliation. Of the same nature is the ethos of achieving compromise and of progressing in an incremental way. In promoting action at the EU level, the key reference for the Commission is the European Treaties. Among the Commission’s powers is that of dealing with infringements of Community law. If it finds that an infringement has occurred, it serves a formal notice on the state concerned requiring discontinuance or comments with a specified period (usually two months). If the matter is not resolved in this way, the Commission issues a reasoned opinion, requiring the state to comply by a given deadline. As a last resort, the Commission can refer a matter to the Court of Justice, whose judgement is legally binding. Most matters are dealt with informally, but Britain has been subject to reasoned opinions on environmental matters (Haigh 1990: 153 and 160). During the 1990s the influence of the Commission waned under fierce criticism of its perceived greed for power and the acquisition of national competencies. Its attempts at harmonisation of standards in the pursuit of the Single Market, though often well founded, have sometimes been inept, giving an impression of remoteness and arrogance, exacerbated by its poor control of Community funds. However, much of the popular criticism is misconceived. Thus, for example, to label the 17,000 officers of the Commission (including 3,000 translators and more than 3,000 scientists) as a massive bureaucracy is a gross exaggeration. (The DETR had a total of 15,000 staff.) Nevertheless, the media have harried the Commission on its interference




in national affairs, and the cronyism of the Commissioners. Protecting national competencies in the face of expanding EU powers was a prime objective of the Thatcher administration, but other member states too have grown wary of the expanding competence of the Community. The European Parliament has taken the Commission to task on poor management. The Council took action during the 1990s to reduce unnecessary interference from the Commission, citing the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. The effect has been dramatic, with a considerable fall in the amount of Community legislation, and, less obviously, a weakening of its influence. The culmination of mounting criticism came at the end of 1998 when the European Parliament, to which the Commission is accountable, threatened to sack all Commissioners. Although the proposal was defeated, the debate fuelled popular antagonism against the Commission, and in March 1999 the Commissioners resigned en bloc. A new Commission was approved by the European Parliament in September with major reforms to its organisational structure and procedures. These were designed, in Mr Prodi’s words, ‘to win back ordinary people’s confidence in Europe and the European vision . . . [and] to transform the Commission into a modern, efficient administration’.4 A ‘blueprint for reform’ is expected imminently. In the meantime, the Commission’s thirty Directorates-General (‘DGs’) and numerous other services have been reorganised into thirty-six departments that will be known by their names rather than the old and frustrating system of numbers. The main departments are each headed by a Director-General, but considerable influence over the work of the Directorate is exercised by the personal ‘cabinet’ of the Commissioner, and in particular by the chair (who is known as the chef du cabinet). The departments with an interest in town and country planning or the broader concept of spatial planning are Regional Policy (known as DG Regio, and whose main responsibility is for the Structural Funds), Environment, and Transport.


The European Parliament is a directly elected body consisting of 626 members, who are elected every five years. Britain has eighty-seven representatives, known as MEPs: Members of the European Parliament. The Single European Act and Treaty on European Union extended the powers of the Parliament, and the Amsterdam Treaty (which came into force in May 1999) has again increased its role in joint decisionmaking with the Council and its supervisory powers over the Commission. The Parliament is consulted on all major Community decisions, and it has powers in relation to the budget which it shares with the Council, and in approving the appointment of the Commission. The assent of Parliament is needed also for accession of new members and international agreements. However, it is important to note that the Parliament was established essentially as an advisory and supervisory body, while the Council of Ministers is the legislature. One reflection of the lack of legislative power is that the Parliament sits in plenary session for only three days each month and bizarrely continues to divide its sittings between two locations: Brussels and Strasbourg. Parliament is organised along party political (not national) lines. The political groups have their own secretariats and are the ‘prime determiners of tactics and voting patterns’ (Nugent 1999: 130). Much of their work is carried out by standing committees and through questions to the Commission and Council. The Regional Policy, Transport and Tourism Committee considers matters related to spatial development, including European regional planning policy and the common transport policy. In 1995 the European Parliament established the office of the European Ombudsman, charged with improving the quality of Community relations with the public. The Ombudsman can investigate complaints within all the Community institutions except for the courts acting in their judicial role. Complaints can be made by anyone living in the European Union, and 1,372 were received in 1998. Almost 70 per cent of complaints are outside the mandate of the Ombudsman, and many of these are about the application of


Community law within the member states. Threequarters of admissible complaints were made against the European Commission, and the highest proportion, one-third, were related to access to information.


The Committee of the Regions (COR) is the youngest European institution, set up following the Treaty of European Union, and holding its first session in March 1994. It is intended to give a voice to the regions and local authorities in European Union debates and decision-making. It has 222 members representing the regions, including twenty-four from UK local authorities. (The UK representation is made up of fourteen from England, five from Scotland, three from Wales, and two from Northern Ireland.) The COR has taken a particular interest in regional planning and in advocating wider use of the principle of subsidiarity, so as to strengthen the role of regional and local authorities. The Treaty identifies particular areas where the COR has to be consulted by the Commission, including trans-European networks, economic and social cohesion, and structural fund regulations. It can also offer opinions in other areas that it thinks appropriate, typically when an issue has a specifically regional dimension. It has issued many opinions on planning, urban, and environmental issues. A committee (confusingly known in the COR as a commission) has been established to deal exclusively with spatial planning, urban issues, energy, and the environment.


There are two main European courts: the European Court of Justice and the Court of First Instance. The European Court of Justice has thirteen judges. It decides on the legality of decisions of the Council and the Commission, interprets Community law, ensures its consistent application, and determines violations of Treaties. Cases can be brought before it by member

states, organisations of the Community, and private firms and individuals. Since 1989 the Court of First Instance has dealt with most actions involving private applicants. It is organised on a similar basis to the European Court of Justice. The Courts have played an important part in extending the competencies of the European Union by confirming that actions by the Community are legal under the Treaties (Nadin and Shaw 1999), and by promoting harmonisation by ruling that certain actions are illegal (Nugent 1999: 263). These courts are quite separate from the European Court of Human Rights.


The Council of Europe is not to be confused with the EU. It was set up in 1949 with ten member countries to promote awareness of a common European identity, to protect human rights, and to standardise legal practices across Europe in order to achieve these aims. Since 1989, its main role has been to monitor human rights in the post-communist democracies, and to assist them in carrying out political, constitutional, and legal reform. It now has forty-one member countries (including sixteen countries that were formerly part of the communist bloc). It has a three-tier structure with a Council and Ministers, a Parliamentary Assembly, and a Congress of Local and Regional Authorities. With an annual budget of less than £100 million, it is much less powerful than the EU (which has an annual budget of over £50 billion), but nevertheless it has played an important part in maintaining and establishing democracy on the Continent. It is best known for its Convention on European Human Rights. Anyone who feels that their rights under the Convention have been breached may take a case to the European Court on Human Rights for a decision which will be binding on those states that have signed up to the Convention. The Convention is now incorporated into UK law,5 and its impacts on planning are discussed in Chapter 12. The Council has been active for many years in the field of regional planning and environment, and perhaps the most notable achievement is the Bern




Convention on Conservation of Wildlife and Habitats. It has published conference and other reports on the implications of sustainability for regional planning, the representation of women in urban and regional planning, and many other topics. A conference of ministers of spatial and regional planning (CEMAT) has been meeting since 1970, and its most important contribution has been the European regional/spatial planning charter, known as the Torremolinos Charter. This was adopted in 1983 and committed the Council to producing a ‘regional planning concept’ for the whole of the European territory. It has taken some time, but CEMAT has also now published Guiding Principles for Sustainable Spatial Development of the European Continent (2000). The Council was also responsible for the European Campaign for Urban Renaissance (1980–82). This led to a programme of ad hoc conferences, various reports and ‘resolutions’ on such matters as health in towns, the regeneration of industrial towns, and community development. In 1992 the Conference adopted The European Urban Charter. This ‘draws together into a single composite text, a series of principles on good urban management at local level’. The ‘principles’ relate to a wide range of issues, including transport and mobility, environment and nature in towns, the physical form of cities, and urban security and crime prevention.



We live in an age when most of the old dogmas that haunted governments in the past have been swept away. We know now that better government is about much more than whether public spending should go up or down, or whether organisations should be nationalised or privatised. Now that we are not hidebound by the old ways of government we can find new and better ones. (White Paper, Modernising Government, 1999)


The quotation illustrates the style as well as the zeal of the Blair government in its attempt to change the nature of the governmental system. It is not, of course, the first government to enter office with such flourishes; nor is it unique in proclaiming innovations which are recognisably in line with secular social and political changes. But ‘the third way’ (Giddens 1998) is in marked contrast to at least the rhetoric of the long-lived Conservative administration which was defeated in the election of 1997. Moreover, the first years of office have witnessed a continuing torrent of measures to bring both policy and the machinery of implementation in line with the philosophy of the new government. Changes continue to be introduced, and the following account represents a snap-shot picture in late 2000. First, however, reference needs to be made to a remarkable innovation in the strategic planning of public expenditure: the Comprehensive Spending Review announced by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury in June 1997. Instead of adjusting departmental budgets at the margin, priorities are being attained by the use of zero-based budgeting: ‘Every department will scrutinise its spending plans in detail from a zero base, and ask, how does each item contribute to the Government’s objective as set out in out manifesto? Why are we spending this money? Do we need to spend it? What is it achieving? How effective is it? How efficiently are we spending it? . . . Its conclusions will inform a new set of public spending plans for the rest of this Parliament – a set that reflects our priorities.’6

The outcome was a significant shift in spending priorities over a three-year period ‘towards education, health and capital expenditure in transport and housing, and away from defence, agriculture, the diplomatic service, and the legal system’. The new arrangements represented ‘the most ambitious re-engineering of the public expenditure system for several decades, shifting the emphasis away from annual negotiations and their emphasis on inputs, and towards objectives and outputs’ (James 1999: 195). This suggests that Whitehall departmentalism has become less rigid than previously. Certainly, Blair


did not initially share Harold Wilson’s experience in the early 1960s of the tardiness of the civil service in adapting to a Labour government after thirteen years of Conservative government. Indeed, he ‘found a civil service almost startlingly keen to prove that they had not been politicised by eighteen years of Conservative rule’.7 However, Blair’s drive for change may now be facing some problems with the traditional departmentalism. He is reported as expressing frustration at civil servants ‘defiantly defending their own departments: they are felt to oppose any structural changes to their fiefdom, particularly if it means ceding any territory’.8 To combat this, he has asked Lord Simon (formerly of BP) ‘to introduce a revolution in civil service culture, including stripping out layers of management and imposing payment by results’. In the words of Michael White, Performance-related pay, targeted objectives for departments and individuals, more inter-departmental cooperation, fast-track promotion for bright young things, above all a shift from being preoccupied with policy and process to a new focus on outcome and delivery are what it’s all about.’9

Time will tell: these developments are (at the time of writing) much too recent to evaluate.

increasing number of functions have been transferred from government departments to agencies and public bodies. Figure 3.2 shows the main institutional arrangements, and gives a flavour of their complexity. Planning responsibilities have evolved over time and, though there have been numerous reorganisations, the machinery inevitably has a patchwork appearance. (As an example of the problems involved: in which department should questions of the rural economy be placed – the one concerned with agriculture, or natural resources, or economic development, or employment? Or should it form a separate department of its own?) The machinery is also unstable: changing perceptions, conditions, problems, and objectives demand new policy responses, which in turn can lead to organisational changes. For example, increased concern for environmental planning has resulted in the transfer of widespread environmental functions into new comprehensive environment agencies. Sometimes, different patterns emerge in different parts of the UK. Thus nature conservation and access to the countryside are the responsibility of one agency in Scotland (Scottish Natural Heritage) and in Wales (Countryside Council for Wales), but are divided between two in England (English Nature and the Countryside Agency).



A large number of governmental departments and agencies are involved in town and country planning. Those having the main responsibility for the planning acts are the Scottish Executive Development Department (SEDD), the Transport, Planning and Environment Group of the Welsh Assembly, the Planning Service Executive Agency of the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland (DoENI), and, for England, the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (DTLR). There are, of course, many planning functions that fall to departments responsible for agriculture, the countryside, the human heritage, national heritage, nature conservation, and trade and industry. Additionally, an

The central planning department for England is the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (DTLR). The ungainly title mirrors its vast range of responsibilities. It was formed in June 2001, when the environment responsibilities of the former Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) were transferred to the newly formed Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The Department’s responsibilities include not only the three areas indicated by its title, but also housing, local government, regeneration, and of course planning. The Secretary of State has final responsibility for all the functions of the Department. He or she is,




Figure 3.2 The Institutional Arrangements for Town and Country Planning in the UK


however, concerned primarily with strategic issues of policy and priority, including public expenditure, which determine the operations of the Department as a whole. The former DETR was a large department: in 1999, it had over 15,000 staff, of whom 3,900 were at the headquarters, 900 were in the Government Offices for the Regions, and around 10,500 were in eight executive agencies such as the Highways Agency and the Planning Inspectorate. The Department is organised in Groups and Directorates. For example, the Planning, Roads and Local Transport Group includes the Planning Directorate, the Integrated and Local Transport Directorate, and the Roads and Traffic Directorate. The machinery of government is constantly changing. The original Department of the Environment (formed in 1970) took over transport responsibilities, but these were moved back to a separate Department of Transport in 1976 – a move which was reversed by the Labour government in 1997. Following the 1992 general election, a separate Department for National Heritage was created (superseded in 1997 by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport). Other changes have included the gathering together of the pollution regulation functions within Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Pollution (HMIP), and later the establishment of Environmental Agencies for England and Wales, and for Scotland; these have taken over the functions of the HMIP, the National Rivers Authority, and the waste regulation functions of local government. It has been a restless time in Whitehall.10 The Department’s policy aims and objectives are set out in its annual report, and are under constant review. The overall aim of the former DETR was ‘to improve the quality of life by promoting sustainable development at home and abroad, fostering economic prosperity and supporting local democracy’. The list of objectives refers to a wide range of issues including housing and social cohesion, integrated transport, rural areas, responsive elected local government, regeneration, and efficiency in the construction industry (Box 3.1). The range of responsibilities in the field of planning is shown in Box 3.2.


The Department for Culture, Media and Sport was established in 1997 (following the Department of National Heritage). It has a wide range of responsibilities, including the arts, sport and recreation, libraries, museums, broadcasting, film, press freedom and regulation, heritage, and tourism. Its overall aim is ‘to improve the quality of life for all through cultural and sporting activities, and to strengthen the creative industries’. There are now greatly enhanced resources for these worthy objectives by way of the National Lottery. The areas of ‘good causes’ for which Lottery funds provide support are sport, the arts, heritage, charities, millennium projects, health, education, and the environment. In 1998–99 a total of £3,192 million was awarded, of which £1,283 million went to the Heritage Lottery Fund, £148 million to sport, and £281 million to the National Lottery Charities Board (Whitaker’s Almanac 2000: 611). (Funding heritage projects by the Lottery is discussed further in Chapter 8.) The Department is responsible for over forty executive and advisory non-departmental public bodies, including the British Library, the British Tourist Authority, the Millennium Commission, the National Heritage Memorial fund, and English Heritage (which is discussed in Chapter 8). It has also established close relationships with the Local Government Association and is promoting local authority cultural strategies.11


Other departments of government have special status in respect of town and country planning, notably the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). This new ministry, created in 2001, includes all functions of the former Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) and the environment, wildlife and countryside functions of the





Aim The DETR aims to improve everyone’s quality of life, now and for the future, through: • • • • • •

thriving, prosperous regions and communities; better transport; better housing; a better environment; safer, healthier surroundings; and prudent use of natural resources.

Objectives • To protect and improve the environment and to integrate the environment with other policies across government and internationally. • To offer everyone the opportunity of a decent home and so promote social cohesion, wellbeing, and self-dependence. • To promote modern and integrated transport for everyone and to reduce the impact of transport on the environment.

• To provide customer-focused regulatory and other transport services and to collect taxes fairly and efficiently. • To enhance opportunity in rural areas, improve enjoyment of the countryside, and conserve and manage wildlife resources. • To promote a sustainable pattern of physical development and land and property use in cities, towns, and the countryside. • To promote a system of elected government in England which responds to the needs of communities. • To enhance sustainable economic development and social cohesion throughout England through effective regional action and integrated local regeneration programmes. • To secure an efficient market in the construction industry, with innovative and successful UK firms that meet the needs of clients and society and are competitive at home and abroad. To improve health and safety by reducing risks from work activity, travel, and the environment.

Source: DETR Annual Report 2000 (p. 210)

former DETR. DEFRA has had to be consulted on important proposals, and MAFF classification of agricultural land quality remains a potentially important consideration in development control (PPG 7: Annex B). The influence of the former MAFF has waned somewhat in parallel with the decline of agriculture in the British economy, but it still has to be consulted on any planning proposal which involves a significant loss of high-quality agricultural land. Objections by MAFF have fallen considerably over recent years.12 At the same time, it assumed an increasing responsibility for countryside protection functions such as the protection of environmentally sensitive areas (discussed in Chapter 9). In the

words of MAFF’s annual report, one of its objectives is to sustain and enhance the rural and marine environments and public enjoyment of the amenities they provide. The principles laid down in the UK’s Sustainable Development Strategy, of pursuing a balance between economic development and environmental protection, are integrated into the development of MAFF’s policies.

The Farming and Rural Conservation Agency is an executive agency of DEFRA (established in 1997), and, following a review in 1999, concentrates on ‘the development and maintenance of strategic relationships with planning authorities, Government offices, and the


BOX 3.2


• Issuing national planning guidance on the key areas of planning policy, such as housing, economic development, transport, retail and town centres, the countryside, green belts, sport and recreation, minerals and waste, and on the operation of the system at regional and local levels. • Working with the government offices for the regions to ensure that regional planning guidance, local authorities’ development plans and decisions on planning applications are in line with national policies. • Seeking to improve the legislative framework

for planning, including the system of development plans and development control. • Acting as the focal point within government for the property industry and liaising with the Local Government Association, the main representative bodies of business and environmental interests, professional groups, and other government departments on the development of policy. • Representing the UK at international negotiations on planning; and commissioning research and statistical information to support policy development.

DETR Annual Report 2000

regional development agencies with a view to achieving fuller integration of agricultural considerations into wider government policies affecting the rural economy and environment’.13


The proliferation of new government agencies is confusing. Essentially it has taken two main forms: executive agencies (of which the highly successful Driver and Vehicle Licensing Executive was the forerunner) and non-departmental public bodies (exemplified by the Housing Corporation, the Local Government Commission for England, and the former new town development corporations). Executive agencies remain part of their Department, and their staffs are civil servants; but they have a wide degree of managerial freedom (set out in their individual ‘framework’ documents). They enjoy delegated responsibilities for financial, pay, and personnel matters. They work within a framework of objectives, targets, and resources agreed by ministers. They are accountable to ministers, but their chief executives are personally responsible for the day-to-day business

of the agency. Ministers remain accountable to Parliament. If this sounds somewhat confusing, that is because it is. However, in principle, the stated intention is to increase accountability. A distinction is drawn between responsibility, which can be delegated, and accountability, which remains a matter for ministers – a contention which is the subject of considerable controversy. Examples of executive agencies are the Planning Inspectorate (discussed further below) and Historic Scotland. By contrast, non-departmental public bodies are a type of quango (quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation). These bodies (of which there are over 1,300) range enormously in function, size, and importance. They all play a role in the process of national government, but are not government departments or parts of a department. There are three types of NDPB: executive bodies such as the Countryside Agency, the Environment Agency, and English Heritage; advisory bodies such as the Advisory Committee on Business and the Environment, the Radioactive Waste Management Committee, and the Royal Commission on the Environment; and tribunals such as the lands tribunals, rent assessment committees, and the Agricultural Land Tribunal.




The way in which the aims and objectives of executive agencies are cast is illustrated by the case of the Planning Inspectorate. This is a joint executive agency of the DTLR and the Welsh Office. In Scotland the equivalent is the Scottish Office Inquiry Reporters Unit (SOIRU). The major areas of work are the holding of local plan inquiries (thirty-six opened in 1999–2000, down from a high of ninety-one in 1995– 96, but for which it seeks to recover full costs from the planning authorities concerned); determining planning appeals (12,619 in 1999–2000); and determining enforcement appeals (2,746 in 1999–2000).14 During the wave of plan-making in the mid-1990s, local plan inquiries placed heavy demands on the Inspectorate. Not only did numbers increase, but recent inquiries have generally been longer and more complex, so reporting times inevitably lengthened.15 Other responsibilities of the Planning Inspectorate include highway inquiries, and footpath orders under the Highways, Town and Country Planning, and Wildlife and Countryside Acts.16 Increasing resources are devoted to environmental matters such as inquiries under the Environmental Protection Act. The Inspectorate has an annual budget of £37 million (1999–2000), and a total staff of around 600, 400 of whom are inspectors. In line with current ideas about governmental administration, it has performance targets which include deciding 80 per cent of written representation appeals within eighteen weeks (achieved); and providing an inspector for local plan inquiries at the time the authority requested in 80 per cent of cases (achieved). The Inspectorate now also publishes its own journal. The future of the Planning Inspectorate has been the subject of much debate over recent years. During 2000 the Inspectorate was subject to a major review by the DETR (a review is required every five years), and in the same year the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Select Committee conducted an inquiry into the Planning Inspectorate and public inquiries. On the first review the outcome was positive and recommended retention of the Inspectorate as an executive agency. Attention has now shifted to stage

two of the DETR review, on how performance can be enhanced. This will take into account the findings of the Select Committee report, which had numerous recommendations. The report is generally positive: it notes that the ‘the Inspectorate is held in high regard by most who come into contact with it’ and that there had been a dramatic improvement in efficiency over recent years. The main problems seem to be in ensuring consistency and in the relatively small number of cases where complaints arise, where the Committee found an ‘apparently high-handed attitude to people querying . . . decisions’ (para. 29). The report makes other recommendations on the potential of more ‘instant decisions’; the increasing need for inspectors to be able to provide specialist knowledge; and the difficulty of keeping up with incremental changes to government policy (or even knowing what government policy is), which is not so much an issue for the Inspectorate as for the government. In the context of new legislation implementing the Human Rights Convention, there have been suggestions that the Inspectorate should be replaced by a system of environmental courts. The reason is that the Human Rights legislation requires that everyone be ‘entitled to a fair and public hearing . . . by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law’. Advocates of the environmental court argue that the Inspectorate does not meet this requirement because it is an executive agency of government and thus not independent.17 This matter is taken up in the discussion of inquiries and hearings in Chapter 12; suffice it to say here that the government (and the courts) have so far determined otherwise. The Select Committee came to the common-sense conclusion that if there is a need for more independence through a court system, the Inspectorate should be established as the first part of that, in effect a ‘court of first instance’.


Relationships between central and local government vary significantly among various policy areas, ‘reflecting, in part, the difference in weight and concern


which the centre gives to items on its political agenda, and, in part, differences in the sets of actors involved in particular issue areas’ (Goldsmith and Newton 1986: 103). The 1943 Town and Country Planning Act (which preceded the legislation on the scope of the planning system) placed on the relevant minister the duty of ‘securing consistency and continuity in the framing of a national policy with respect to the use and development of land’. Though this is no longer an explicit statutory duty, the spirit lives on, and the Secretary of State has extensive formal powers. These, in effect, give the Department the final say in all policy matters (subject, of course, to parliamentary control – though this is in practice very limited). For many matters, the Secretary of State is required or empowered to make regulations or orders. Though these are subject to varying levels of parliamentary control, many come into effect automatically. This delegated legislation covers a wide field, including the Use Classes Orders and the General Development Orders. These enable the Secretary of State to change the categories of development which require planning permission. The formal powers over local authorities are wide-ranging. If a local authority fails to produce a ‘satisfactory’ plan, default powers can be used. The Secretary of State can require a local authority to make ‘modifications’ to a plan, or ‘call in’ a plan for ‘determination’. Decisions of a local planning authority on applications for planning permission can, on appeal, be modified or revoked. Development proposals which the Secretary of State regards as being sufficiently important can be ‘called in’ for decision by the minister. These powers are now frequently employed in the plan-making process, usually informally through the DETR regional offices.18 In less interventionist times they were reserved for cases where there was a deadlock between local and central government. This can amount almost to a game of bluff as, for instance, when a local authority wants to make a political protest, or to demonstrate to its electors that it is being forced by central government to follow a policy which is unpopular. Thus, opposition in Surrey to the M25 was so strong that the county omitted it from its

structure plan. The Secretary of State made a direction requiring it to be included. Another battle arose over the Islington unitary development plan, where the Secretary of State took strong objection to the stringent controls which the borough proposed (inter alia) for its thirty-four conservation areas. The Secretary of State issued a direction requiring most of these to be changed. The borough took the matter to court, which held that it had no power to intervene on the planning aspects of the case; and since the Secretary of State had not acted perversely or in conflict with his own policies, his action was quite legal. Judicial review cannot be used as an oblique appeal. It was therefore the responsibility of the borough and the Secretary of State to resolve their differences to the satisfaction of the Secretary of State (JPL 1995: 121–5). A more recent case was a direction to Berkshire County Council to modify its proposed structure plan to increase the provision for new housing in the county (from 37,500 to 40,000) by the year 2006. This is a common issue of friction between central government and a number of county councils, particularly in the South-East. Perhaps the classic case of open political conflict was the North Southwark Local Plan, which was formally called in by the Secretary of State. A departmental press release explained the situation: We do not lightly call-in local plans, let alone reject them; indeed this is the first to be rejected and only the second to be called in. However, we will not hesitate to take action where such plans fly in the face of national policies for economic regeneration, especially of the inner city. The Southwark Local Plan is opposed to private investment and is hostile to the London Docklands Development Corporation. The Council has rejected the helpful comments of the inspector following the public local inquiry. The plan is quite unacceptable. (Read and Wood 1994: 11)

The interest of cases such as these lies in their exceptional status. It is very rare for a local authority to engage in a pitched battle with central government. Equally, it is seldom that central government will feel compelled to use its reserve powers. It is perhaps noteworthy that these two cases arose in the politically charged areas of inner London between radical Labour authorities and a Conservative government that had become openly hostile to local government.




The North Cornwall case was handled in a way more consistent with tradition. The case is discussed on p. 378: here it is sufficient to note that the local authority was giving planning permissions for development in the open countryside contrary to national policies and the approved county structure plan. Pressure was brought to bear upon the district council by way of a special inquiry carried out by an independent professional planner (Lees 1993). Normally, informal pressures are sufficient: the threat of strong action by the Secretary of State is typically as good as – if not better than – the action itself. With the enhanced position of development plans in the socalled plan-led system, attention now focuses on the provisions of draft plans. Regional officials pore over the wording of local policies to ensure that they accurately reflect those established at the national level. To the outsider, this plan scrutiny can develop into a game of words, sometimes taking on the character of academic hair-splitting. For instance, at one time the word ‘normally’ was acceptable, now it is taboo; ‘a presumption against’ is also out of order – unless this accords with specific national policy (DoE (1992) Development Plans: A Good Practice Guide: 87). In spite of all this, it is not the function of the Secretary of State to decide detailed planning matters. In a recent ministerial statement, it was explained that It is the policy of the Secretary of State ‘to be very selective about calling in planning applications. He will, in general, only take this step if planning issues of more than local importance are involved. Such cases may include, for example, those which, in his opinion, • may conflict with national policies on important matters; • could have significant effects beyond their immediate locality; • give rise to substantial regional or national controversy; • raise significant architectural or urban design issues; or • may involve the interests of national security or of foreign Governments. (HC Debates 16 June 1999, col 138)

This echoes with statements made by previous Secretaries of State: local planning decisions are normally the business of local planning authorities. The Secretary of State’s function is to coordinate the work of individual local authorities and to ensure that

their development plans and development control procedures are in harmony with broad planning policies. That this often involves rather closer relationships than might prima facie be supposed follows from the nature of the governmental processes. The line dividing policy from day-to-day administration is a fine one. Policy has to be translated into decisions on specific issues, and a series of decisions can amount to a change in policy. This is particularly important in the British planning system, where a large measure of administrative discretion is given to central and local government bodies. This is a distinctive feature of the planning system. There is little provision for external judicial review of local planning decisions (Scrase 1999; Keene 1999); instead, there is the system of appeals to the Secretary of State. The Department in effect operates both in a quasi-judicial capacity and as a developer of policy. The Department’s quasi-judicial role stems in part from the vagueness of planning policies. Even if policies are precisely worded, their application can raise problems. Since local authorities have such a wide area of discretion, and since the courts have only very limited powers of action, the Department has to act as arbiter over what is fair and reasonable. This is not, however, simply a judicial process. A decision is not taken on the basis of legal rules as in a court of law: it involves the exercise of a wide discretion in the balance of public and private interest within the framework of planning policies. Appeals to the Secretary of State against (for example) the refusal of planning permission are normally decided by the Planning Inspectorate. Such decisions are the formal responsibility of the Secretary of State; and there is no right of appeal except on a question of law. Inspectors also consider objections made to local development plans, but in this case the recommendations are made to the local authority rather than the Secretary of State. The local authority is responsible for deciding how to act on the recommendations, but there are additional public safeguards allowing further objections and call-in by the Secretary of State. Planning authorities, inspectors, and others are guided in their decisions and recommendations by


government policy. Central government guidance on planning matters is issued by way of circulars and, since 1988, in policy guidance notes. There are four series of these: planning policy (PPG), regional planning policy (RPG), minerals policy (MPG), and derelict land grant advice (DLGA). In Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland there are similar ‘national’ policy statements, which are explained in Chapter 4. Since the introduction of planning guidance documents, circulars have been concerned mainly with the explanation and elaboration of statutory procedures. PPGs deal with government policy in substantive areas, ranging from green belts to outdoor advertising. Circulars and guidance notes are generally subject to some consultation with local authorities and other organisations prior to final publication, but the Secretary of State has the final word. Circulars and guidance notes are recognised as important sources of government policy and interpretation of the law, although they are not the authoritative interpretation of law (this is the role of the courts), nor are they generally legally binding. Indeed, advice can be conflicting, perhaps as a result of piecemeal revision at different times. Moreover, as is demonstrated repeatedly at public inquiries, differing interests can ‘cherry pick’ from the twenty-five PPGs to show how well their arguments meet the official guidance. Arguments for and against development in villages can be equally supported. While ‘the overall strategy . . . should be to allocate the maximum number of houses to existing larger urban areas’ (PPG 13), the building of houses in villages can help to sustain the local services which are necessary for their economic survival (PPG 7). Nevertheless, circulars and guidance notes command a great deal of respect and form an important framework for development planning and development control. Policy, of course, has to be translated into action. This presents inevitable problems: policy is general, action is specific. In applying policy to particular cases, interpretation is required; and often there has to be a balancing of conflicting considerations – of which many examples are given throughout this book. Policies can never be formulated in terms which allow clear application in all cases, since more than one

‘policy’ is frequently at issue. Even the most hallowed of policies has to be flouted on occasion – as witness developments in the green belts, in protected sites of natural or historic importance, and in national parks. Such developments may be unusual (if only because they attract great opposition – of an increasingly strident nature); but they represent only the most obvious and the most public of the conflicts over land use. Given the realities of land use controls, policies are usually couched in very general terms such as ‘preserving amenity’, ‘sustaining the rural economy’, ‘enhancing the vitality of town centres’ or ‘restraining urban sprawl’, and suchlike. This is a very different world from that of a zoning ordinance, which is the principal instrument of development regulation in many countries. Such an ordinance may provide (for example) that a building shall be set back at least five metres from the road, have a rear yard of six metres or more, and side yards of at least two and a half metres. Zoning was intended to be clear and precise, and subject to virtually no ‘interpretation’. Indeed, it was hoped that it would be virtually self-executing. Though these hopes failed to materialise, it is fundamentally different in approach from the British planning system. Above all, the British system embraces discretion and general planning principles rather than certainty for the landowner and developer. It is important to recognise that discretion means much more than ‘making exceptions’ in particular cases. The system requires that all cases be considered on their merits within the framework of relevant policies. Local authorities cannot simply follow the letter of the policy: they must consider the character of a particular proposal and decide how policies should apply to it. But they cannot depart from a policy unless there are good and justifiable planning reasons for so doing. The same applies to the Secretary of State, who is equally bound both by the formulated policies and by the merits of particular cases. The courts will look into this carefully in cases which come before them and, though they will not question the merits of a policy, they will ensure that the Secretary of State abides by it. Thus, in a curious way, discretion is limited. All material considerations must be taken into




account and justified. Arbitrary action is unacceptable, as it is in the USA, which has written constitutional safeguards (Booth 1996; Purdue 1999).

(C) DEVOLVED AND REGIONAL GOVERNMENT The Union will be strengthened by recognising the claims of Scotland, Wales and the regions with strong identities of their own. The Government’s devolution proposals, by meeting those aspirations, will not only safeguard but also enhance the Union. (White Paper, Scotland’s Parliament, 1997)


The campaign for devolution to Scotland and Wales failed at the end of the 1970s, but succeeded twenty years later. The aftermath of the earlier failure proved to be an important factor in the later success. The 1979 collapse of devolution led to the defeat of the Labour government and eighteen years of Conservative governments bent not on devolving power, but on centralising it. During this period the strength of the movement for devolution increased, particularly in Scotland, where the Thatcher government displayed a marked insensitivity to Scottish feelings. As Vernon Bogdanor has put it, Margaret Thatcher saw Scotland as an outpost of the dependency culture which she was determined to extirpate, while the ‘very structure’ of the Scottish Office ‘added a layer of bureaucracy, standing in the way of the reforms which were paying such dividends in England’. (1993: 624 and 619) The Thatcher Government’s policies of competitive individualism were resented in both Scotland and Wales where they were seen as undermining traditional values of community solidarity; and policies such as privatisation and opting out from local authority control had little resonance there. But resented above all was the community charge, the poll tax. . . . Only devolution, so

it seemed, could protect Scotland and Wales against future outbursts of Thatcherism. (1999: 195–6)

Following the publication of White Papers (Scotland’s Parliament and A Voice for Wales), the Scotland Act and the Government of Wales Act were passed in 1998. The very titles of the White Papers point to a major difference between them. Scotland has a Parliament with legislative powers over all matters not reserved to the UK Parliament. Wales has only executive functions, but it does have full powers in relation to subordinate legislation. The latter include environmental, housing, local government, and planning functions. Thus Wales can change the provisions relating to the Use Classes Order, the General Development Order, the General Development Procedure Order, as well as the regulations concerning planning applications. The devolution to Scotland and Wales is of importance to England for a variety of reasons. One of these is its effect on the possible pressure for devolution to English regions. This might be fostered if Scotland and Wales were perceived to be benefiting economically from devolution at the expense of the poorer regions of England. Encouragement might lie in the new regional machinery being established in England. As noted earlier, the Northern Region is already showing considerable interest in some degree of devolution to its area.19


Scotland has had a special position in the machinery of government since the 1707 Act of Union. It has maintained its independent legal and judicial systems, its Bar, its established Church (Presbyterian), and its heraldic authority (Lord Lyon King-at-Arms). The Scottish Office has a long history and, even before devolution, had a large degree of independence from Whitehall. Many years of responsibility for Scottish services, the relative geographical remoteness of Edinburgh (perhaps essentially psychological), the nature of the distribution of people and economic activity, the vast areas of open land, the close relation-


ship between central and local administrators and politicians – such are the factors which gave Scottish administration a distinctive character. (This is not to mention the additional party political factors, such as the very small number of Conservative MPs: eleven out of seventy-two seats in 1996, and none in 1979!) Currently the departments include development (SEDD), education (SEED), enterprise and lifelong learning (SEELLD), health (SEHD), and rural affairs (SERAD). Following devolution, the ministers for these departments are members of the Scottish Parliament. The role of the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Parliament in planning policy is as yet unclear, but it is unlikely to be a passive one. One preliminary indication is given in a 1999 Consultation Paper, Land Use Planning under a Scottish Parliament, issued by the Scottish Office: The form of any national planning policy guidance which emerges from the Scottish Executive could have significant implications for statutory development plans. . . . A national plan would almost certainly be perceived as unduly centralist and excessively rigid. However, guidance produced by the Scottish Parliament and Executive, bringing together the various National Planning Policy Guidelines and incorporating spatial issues more explicitly, might be attractive. This could inform future development in Scotland and provide some degree of consistency in the pursuit of sustainable development. It could be a vehicle for high level coordination of the objectives of the major agencies as they relate to development and land use. It could also prove attractive for those areas where progress with structure plans has been slow.

This gives some idea of early thinking on the way in which the new machinery might work. Later in the document there is a more certain statement: ‘there is a clear expectation that all national strategic policy guidance will be subject to scrutiny by the Scottish Parliament’. Also revealing is the list of ‘questions for consultees’. These include questions on whether there is a continuing need for structure plans, or whether an alternative should be subnational planning guidance. A further question asks whether there is a case for planning powers to be reduced by widening permitted development rights, or extended to cover

additional aspects, e.g. agriculture, forestry, and land management.


In Wales, increasing responsibilities over a wide field were gradually transferred from Whitehall to the (former) Welsh Office. This transfer took many years to achieve. Welsh affairs were dealt with by the Home Secretary until 1960, with many services being administered directly by the departments which served England. There has been a minister responsible for Wales since 1951, but it was not until 1964 that the (Labour) government established the Welsh Office and a Secretary of State for Wales (Bogdanor 1999: 157–62). Following devolution, the National Assembly for Wales has taken over responsibility for a wide range of functions.20 Relevant to the fields covered in this book are culture, economic development, environment, historic buildings, housing, local government, tourism, town and country planning, and transport. All these functions are now transferred to the Assembly. Particularly important are the powers of secondary legislation. This is in contrast to the Scottish Parliament, which has the wider powers of primary legislation.21 However, in the field of town and country planning, the effective difference is smaller than might at first sight appear. This is because of the particular character of the British planning legislation. This provides only a very general framework for the substantive measures which are enacted in secondary legislation such as the Use Classes Order, the General Development Order, the General Development Procedure Order, and a host of statutory rules and regulations (Bosworth and Shellens 1999). The latter deal with such matters as advertisements, development plans, environmental impact assessment, inquiries procedures, and planning obligations. Additionally, of course, plans are the responsibility of the local authorities, now subject both to Welsh planning guidance22 and to approval by the Assembly. The Assembly is both an executive and a deliberative body.




The executive functions for planning are organised in a Transport, Planning and Environment Group. This comprises five management units, dealing with transport, highways, planning, property matters (estate division), and the environment. It also has oversight of the Welsh built heritage agency, Cadw. The Assembly is also responsible for the Countryside Council for Wales, the Welsh Development Agency (incorporating the former Land Authority for Wales and the Development Board for Rural Wales), and the Welsh Tourist Board. Some of these are discussed in later chapters.


Government in Northern Ireland has a unique character and structure. National government performs, either directly or through agencies, virtually all governmental functions; local government has few responsibilities. Though there are twenty-six elected district councils, their powers are limited to matters such as building regulations, consumer protection, litter prevention, refuse collection and disposal, and street cleansing. The councils nominate representatives on the various statutory bodies responsible for regional services such as education, health and personal social services, and the fire service. They also have a consultative status in relation to a number of services, including planning. All the major services, including countryside policies, heritage, pollution control, urban regeneration, transport, roads, and town and country planning, are administered directly by the Northern Ireland Office. The DoENI is the responsible department for these. Housing is administered by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, which was formed in 1971 to take control of the local authority housing stock. Other departments include Agriculture and Economic Development. Given the tragic history of Northern Ireland, the Office’s priority aims are significantly different from those of other parts of the UK: ‘to create the conditions for a peaceful, stable and prosperous society in which the people of Northern Ireland may have the opportunity of exercising greater control over their own

affairs’. Planning has an important role in this, and is undertaken through an executive agency: the Planning Service Agency of the Northern Ireland Office. The general status of executive agencies is discussed below. The Agency’s aim is ‘to plan and manage development in ways which will contribute to a quality environment and seek to meet the economic and social aspirations of present and future generations’ (Trimbos 1997). The consultative role of the district councils is regarded as having great importance by the Agency, and it consults with them on a wider range of issues than is required by law. It is the government’s intention that there should be a ‘substantial democratic control of the planning process . . . as soon as politically possible by cross-party agreements in the context of a comprehensive political settlement’ (NI Planning Service Agency Annual Report 1998–99: 81). It is also intended to reorganise the departments in the new administration. A new Department for the Environment will be responsible for planning control, while a Department for Regional Development will be responsible for strategic planning. The Belfast Agreement gave a commitment to make rapid progress with a long-term regional strategy for consideration by the Assembly (once it has been established). This strategy will be a statutory document to which all Northern Ireland and UK Departments will be required ‘to have regard’.23 At the time of writing, any statutory action is on hold as a result of the political impasse.


The Labour Party manifesto proposal (Box 3.3) for elected regional governments in the regions where there was a popular demand for them was not for immediate action (particularly in areas where local government reorganisation into unitary authorities would be involved). In the meantime, regional chambers were to be developed to debate and formulate views about future policies. These chambers would vary according to regional wishes, but were expected to be based on existing regional local authority



Demand for directly-elected regional government so varies across England that it would be wrong to impose a uniform system. In time we will introduce legislation to allow the people, region by region, to decide in a referendum whether they want directly elected regional government. Only where clear popular consent is established will arrangements be made for elected regional assemblies. This would require a predominantly unitary system of local government, as presently exists in Scotland and Wales, and confirmation by independent auditors that no additional public expenditure would be involved. Our plans will not mean adding a new tier of government to the existing English system. Source: Labour Party Election Manifesto 1997

organisations such as standing conferences and the like. As with these bodies, the regional chambers would be local authority led, but they would include representatives from other regional stakeholders – defined as ‘any group or individual within the chamber’s region with an established personal of professional interest in the issues of concern to the chamber’.24 This proved an even more appealing idea than the government could have imagined, and all eight regions quickly established chambers (Table 3.1). Concurrently with these initiatives, there has been considerable debate on the need for a more effective way of dealing with the regional dimensions of planning. The main approach until recently has been through the establishment and strengthening of the Government Offices for the Regions. These have built up a relationship with local government, and created a real governmental locus away from Whitehall. Set up in 1994, they have a range of functions within the remit of the DETR, the DTI, and the Department for Education and Employment. Their overall official role is to promote a coherent approach to competitiveness, sustainable economic development, and regeneration.

Table 3.1 Regional Development Agencies and Regional Chambers Region

Regional development agencies

Regional chambers


East of England

East of England Regional Chamber

East Midlands

East Midlands

East Midlands Regional Local Government Association


One North-East

North of England Assembly of Local Authorities



North West Regional Assembly



SERPLAN (from April 2001: SouthEast England Regional Assembly)



South-West Planning Conference

West Midlands

Advantage West Midlands

West Midlands Local Government Association

Yorkshire and Humberside

Yorkshire Forward

Regional Assembly for Yorkshire and Humberside




Attention was initially focused on the publication and revision of regional planning guidance, but this had tended to be rather bland statements of general central government policies. The Blair government quickly adopted a different approach with its campaign to ‘modernise’ both local government and the planning system. An early policy statement, Modernising Planning, pointed to the shortcomings of the regional planning guidance (RPG). Existing guidance had been criticised on the basis that it was too ‘top-down’, lacked regional focus and spent too much time reiterating national policies. It was also too narrowly land use oriented, took too long to produce, and did not ‘command the confidence or commitment of regional stakeholders’. In short, RPG needed a major overhaul. Fundamentally, this was seen to include a strong ‘bottom-up’ approach: We propose a more inclusive process, involving the local authority conferences working with the Government Offices, business and other regional stakeholders, in producing drafts of the regional guidance itself. This would replace the current arrangement under which the regional planning conference merely provides ‘advice’ on the basis of which planning guidance is subsequently produced by the Government Office. In effect, this would replace the existing two stage process with a single stage of regional strategy preparation. If this works as it should, it will normally only be necessary for the Secretary of State to endorse the draft, subject to any specific reservations in relation to issues of national policy (Modernising Planning 1998: para. 18)

This was envisaged as being a second-best solution: ‘statutory planning at the regional level will have to await a democratically-accountable statutory body to undertake it’. There are strong indications that this might be emerging. In London, of course, such a body is being established. Elsewhere, there is a generally positive response to the government’s proposals.25 A major stimulus has come from another policy area: regional development. The epigraph at the head of this section explicitly indicates the government’s commitment to elected regional government in England, though its viability and nature is uncertain at this stage, particularly since it would involve yet another upheaval in local government. In the absence of elected regional authorities, a new regional organisation has

been established. Following the 1997 White Paper Building Partnerships for Prosperity, Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) were set up in each of the eight regions outside London. (The London Development Agency will be appointed by and responsible to the Mayor.)


RDAs are, as their name indicates, agencies to promote economic development in their regions. The Regional Development Agency Act 1998 requires each agency to formulate and keep under review a strategy for implementing its statutory responsibilities to further economic development and regeneration, to promote business efficiency, to promote employment, to enhance the development and application of skills, and to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development. Given the traditional emphasis on urban areas (as well as the political prominence of rural concerns), the RDAs are specifically required to give equal attention to rural areas.26 Indeed, funding is to be separately allocated or earmarked for rural projects.27 The strategy is subject to any ‘guidance’ and directions issued by the Secretary of State. The first guidance was published in 1999 and dealt with regional strategies (Box 3.4). Guidance has also been issued or announced on rural policy, sustainable development, regeneration policy, education and skills issues, competitiveness, inward investment, performance indicators, state aid rules, and equal opportunities. A particular difficulty arises where a planning area straddles more than one RDA, as is the case with Thames Gateway.28 Even more problematic is the problem with the Eastern Region, where three counties (Cambridgeshire, Suffolk, and Norfolk) are covered by the Standing Conference of East Anglian Local Authorities (SCEALA), while three other counties (Bedfordshire, Essex, and Hertfordshire) are covered by the London and South East Regional Planning Conference (SERPLAN). In July 1999, proposals were put forward by SERPLAN and the



The Regional Development Agencies Act 1998 enables the Secretary of State to give guidance and directions to an RDA, in particular with respect to: • the matters to be covered by the strategy; • the issues to be taken into account in formulating the strategy; • the strategy to be adopted in relation to any matter; and • the updating of the strategy.

The agency’s strategy should provide: • a regional framework for economic development, skills, and regeneration which will ensure better strategy focus for and coordination of activity in the region whether by the agency or by other regional, subregional, or local organisations; • a framework for the delivery of national and European programmes which may also influence the development of government policy: and • the basis for detailed action plans for the agency’s own work, setting out the wider aims and objectives for its annual corporate plan.

Source: DETR (1999) RDAs Regional Strategies

South East England Regional Assembly (SEERA) for a new joint committee to set out a broad strategy for the three regions of London, the South East and East Anglia.29 This is regional planning on a truly grand scale! An obvious problem arises on the relationship between the RDA economic strategy and RPG. Much has been written on this, and the House of Commons Select Committee report on Regional Development Agencies includes a range of views.30 Some have argued that RDAs should be required to work within the framework of a ‘comprehensive overarching strategy’ to be prepared and approved by the appropriate regional bodies. The DETR rejected this on the grounds that the two strategies cover different issues, and that areas of mutual interest can be dealt with by constructive collaboration. What is not usually made explicit is the concern of central government that such an ‘overarching’ plan could be used to frustrate desirable economic development or housing provision. It is a nicely arguable question whether the requirements of regional land use planning should take

priority over economic or housing ‘requirements’. Those who see the protection of the countryside as an overriding policy objective will have no doubts on the answer to this, but central government takes a different view. The case of biotechnology clusters is a case in point, as is illustrated by the decisions on development proposals in the rural area south of Cambridge.31 Interestingly, though one of the proposals was not accepted in full (40,000 sq. m at the Wellcome Trust Human Genome Project at Hinxton Hall), the decision letter explicitly stated that 25,000 sq. m would be acceptable, despite the location in an area of restraint. (It was the size of the development, not the location, that was unacceptable.) Two other proposals, both in the Cambridge green belt, were accepted. Thus important economic developments can receive priority over countryside protection. Nowhere has this been made more explicit than in the Public Examination on the RPG for the SouthEast. The Panel Report on this is scathing about the argument that economic and housing developments should be ‘dampened down’ in this region in an




attempt to benefit other regions. The essence of this argument was that ‘regional imbalances’ should be tackled by preventing the ‘economic magnetism of the ‘overheated’ South-East from ‘draining away economic vitality and population from other UK regions’. The Panel castigated this view ‘with its manifest overtones of postwar Barlow based industrial development policy’. Government policy was very different, with an emphasis on the economy being encouraged ‘to go ahead at full speed on all engines’. The Panel Report continued: In our view it is high time that the ghost of Barlow (his report that is) be finally exorcised from regional strategy. Whereas in the 1940s and for some time thereafter, it may have been quite reasonable to consider the UK as the principal unit for economic planning, this is manifestly not the situation at the present time. Economic activity and investment discouraged from settling in the South East of England will not now find alternative landing places in the other UK regions; they are just as likely to go to other parts of the EU. The effect therefore of reducing ‘development pressures’ by ‘dampening down’ the economy of the South East would have little or no beneficial effect on the economies of the other regions of the UK. . . . The whole of the UK (and indeed the EU) has a vested interest in the economic success of the South East region as a core area for economic activity and a major source of capital and tax revenues. . . . It is an engine of growth for the whole country. . . . RPG needs to make it clear that there can be no question of doing anything but building on the success of the South East’s economy with a view to recovering its premier status in the EU and world league.32

Needless to say, this argument is not shared by all! Nevertheless, it now seems clear that the Blair government has made the decision to back the RDAs in maximising their individual growth potentials, irrespective of the impact on migration from the less favoured regions. In this, it is following in the steps of the previous Conservative government.33


The RDAs are financed with the funds of the government programmes they have taken over, such as urban regeneration, industrial land improvement, and rural

development. In total they have a budget of around £800 million and will be expected to lever another £1 billion or so of private money for programmes such as urban regeneration and the redevelopment of derelict land. Their staffs come mainly from the agencies they have subsumed, and number around 100 (The Economist: ‘An England of regions’, 27 March 1999). Some functions that might have been transferred to the RDAs have been retained by their departments – business support services by the Department of Trade and Industry, and skills training by the Department for Education and Employment. The RDAs report to the DTI. There thus appears to be scope for much bureaucracy. This could be put to the test if an RDA wishes to follow a policy which is in conflict with ‘central government orthodoxy’. (For instance, ‘the chief executive of the North-East agency is keen to spend more on improving the skills of those already in work. That would run counter to the government’s belief in concentrating training on the unemployed’.34 Such conflicts are familiar to federal systems, and will no doubt come to the fore in the new system. Regional government means not only giving power to the regions, but also taking some power away from central government. Only time will tell whether elected regional government will emerge. Even in the areas (such as the North-East and Yorkshire) where it looks promising, there could be a contest between the forces for regional government and those for city mayoralties. There are interesting times ahead! (D)


UK local authorities in the past two decades had to manage and adapt themselves to a scale of change and upheaval that has approached the revolutionary. (Wilson and Game 1998) The Government was elected with a bold mandate to modernise Britain and build a fairer, more decent society. To do that and to deliver its key pledges it needs the support of local government. . . . At its best local government is brilliant and cannot be


bettered. But to play its full part in modernising Britain local government itself needs to modernise. (Blair 1998)


Reorganising local government has become a tradition. Its functions and its structure have been subject to frequent change. The pace of this change has become almost frenetic since the early 1960s when it became apparent from the government’s decision to reorganise London government that there were serious prospects for the reorganisation of local government elsewhere in the country. Since then analysis, debate, legislation, review, and further legislation has been ceaseless. In summary, a uniform two-tier system of local government was established by legislation passed in 1963 for London, 1972 for Scotland, and 1973 for the rest of England and Wales. The two-tier system in London and the metropolitan counties was subject to drastic change by the Thatcher government in 1986 under the banner of ‘streamlining the cities’. The upper tier (the Greater London Council and the metropolitan county councils of Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Tyne and Wear, West Midlands, and West Yorkshire) were abolished, thus leaving a unitary system of local government in these areas. Further reorganisation into unitary authorities took place in Scotland and Wales in 1996, and a number of unitary authorities were introduced in parts of non-metropolitan England between 1995 and 1997 (although much of the two-tier system remains). In Northern Ireland a unitary system of local government was set up in 1973. Thus, while Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland have a unitary system, England has a varied structure of local government, in which 115 areas have a unitary system and the remainder are two-tier, forming thirty-four counties and 238 districts.


The anomalous structure of local government in England stems from the distinctive nature of the local government review that preceded it. A Local Government Commission was established to work within policy and procedural guidance published by the DoE. This ‘guidance’ proved to have greater power than the government expected: it had the effect of limiting the changes which could be made to the Commission’s proposals. Moreover, because of the consultative way in which the Commission operated, these proposals were significantly influenced by the views of articulate local interests. The government’s initial proposals for change were set out prior to the establishment of the Commission in a consultation paper, The Structure of Local Government in England. This made the argument, widely accepted across the political spectrum, for a unitary structure of local government in the shires (the pattern which had been put in place in the metropolitan counties). It was argued that a single tier would reduce bureaucracy and costs, and improve coordination. It would clarify responsibility for services and, since taxpayers would be able to relate their local tax bills more clearly to local services, would provide for greater accountability. In the early stages of the Commission’s review, the Environment Secretary, John Gummer, had stated unequivocally that the aim was to produce a unitary structure in England, with the two-tier system remaining in only exceptional circumstances. The way this was to be achieved was left open, with several possibilities: existing districts might become unitary authorities, two or more authorities could be merged into larger ones, and wholly new authorities might be created. The main criteria for judging the need for change was responsiveness to local needs and ‘sense of identity’, as well as the ubiquitous ‘cost-effectiveness’. During the two years of the Commission’s review, district and county authorities sought to justify their existence through an expensive and sometimes bitter propaganda war. In fourteen cases this led to challenge to the Commission’s recommendations in the courts. There was also a legal challenge by the Association of




County Councils, which successfully prevented the Secretary of State from modifying the guidance he had previously given to the Commission in an attempt to strengthen the case for unitary authorities. Despite the government’s wish to see a unitary structure, the eventual undoubted winners were the counties. The Commission found little evidence that change would improve service provision. In the main, changes were limited to renewing unitary status for former county boroughs, and abolishing new and contrived counties created in the 1974 reorganisation. After much debate, the Commission recommended only fifty new unitary authorities. These were mostly former county boroughs (unitary authorities before the 1974 reforms), although a significant number of ‘special cases’ were included on the basis of ‘substantial local support for change’. The Commission explained the modest extent of their recommendations as due to the ‘weight of evidence from national organisations pointing to the problems and risks associated with a breaking up of county wide services’ – a view that was strongly supported by local opinion. However, these arguments failed to satisfy the many districts which were not proposed for unitary status and which had campaigned for this. More significantly, it did not satisfy the government, which was concerned to further increase the number of unitary authorities. Following these disagreements, the chairman of the Commission resigned, and the new chairman was given the remit to review again the case of twenty-one districts where the government believed there was a strong case for unitary status. Further guidance was issued for this mini-review, stressing the potential benefits of unitary status particularly for areas needing economic regeneration (as in the Thames Gateway). It was argued that the ‘single focus’ of unitary local government would be more effective in promoting multi-agency programmes in these areas. This final review initially recommended unitary status for ten of the twenty-one districts, but this was reduced to eight after consultation. The new councils came into being in April 1997. The process of reorganisation in the shires has been the subject of considerable criticism and, after three years of work, many commentators are asking whether

it was worthwhile. Certainly, reorganisation seems to have been handled much more expeditiously in Wales and Scotland. Parish councils (or community or town councils) can play a role in the democratic process by providing an effective voice for local interests and concerns. Unlike their counterparts in Scotland and Wales they have statutory functions, though these are very restricted. Of particular importance (and widely used) is their right to be consulted on planning applications in their areas. They can also play a part in the consultation process for the preparation of development plans.


Even before devolution, the cultural history and physical conditions of Scotland have dictated that, to a degree, the administration of planning is distinctive. Changes to the law in Scotland require specific legislation, and the Scottish Office has for long had administrative discretion within which it could take account of the special circumstances that exist in parts of the country. Nevertheless, the broad thrust and impact of government policy have been much the same (Carmichael 1992). In setting out to reorganise Scottish local government, the government was firmly committed to a single-tier structure, and the 1992 Scottish consultation paper provided options only on the number that were to be established. There were, of course, some political factors involved in this decision: the problem of conflicting interests within the Conservative Party was much less in Scotland since only a handful of the sixty-five Scottish local authorities were in Conservative control. The consultation document in Scotland was also more forthright about the role of local government reform in direct service provision. While the government confirmed its commitment to ‘a strong and effective local authority sector’, it also argued that local authorities no longer needed to ‘maintain a comprehensive range of expertise within their own organisation’, since ‘much could be done by outside contractors’.


In reviewing the possible number and size of the proposed unitary authorities, a consultation paper provided four illustrations showing structures ranging from fifteen to fifty-one authorities. The choice between mainly small or mainly large authorities has important implications for the planning function, especially structure plans. Only the fifteen-authority option would have allowed for unitary authorities to prepare their own structure plans. Even then, special arrangements would have been needed for Glasgow to ensure effective strategic planning. The outcome of reorganisation in Scotland was thirty-two unitary councils, each of which has full planning powers for its area. The fragmentation of the strategic planning function across a larger number of authorities threatens a recognised strength of the Scottish system, and the need for special arrangements for strategic planning was acknowledged by the Scottish Office during the review. The country has been divided into seventeen structure planning areas, six of which require joint working between authorities. The plan framework is discussed further in Chapter 4. Scottish legislation provides for the establishment of community councils where there is a demand for them, under schemes prepared by local authorities. As in England and Wales, their purpose is to represent the local community and ‘to take such action in the interests of the community as appears to its members to be desirable and practicable’. A study of community councils concluded that ‘in contemporary moves towards democratic renewal in local government, community councils are seen as having no special status or role by most local authorities’, though some do accord them a distinctive role in consultation, and there is a wide variety throughout Scotland in their operations and effectiveness (Goodlad et al. 1999). Nevertheless, community councils may have a new role in the proposals of a working group of the Scottish Office and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (SO, Report of the Community Planning Working Group).


Though there has been less than overwhelming support for community councils in Scotland, the debate on their future has been transformed into an enthusiastic promotion of the idea of ‘community planning’. This is defined as any process through which a local authority comes together with other organisations to plan, provide for, or promote the well-being of the communities they serve. The objectives are to improve levels of service and to increase the collective capacity of public-sector agencies to tackle problems which require action from more than one agency. Though much cooperation between agencies already exists, there was a need for a more systematic approach which would provide an overarching strategy. The working group recommend that the Scottish Parliament should signify the importance of ‘community planning’ by providing a statutory basis for it. Similarly, the 1999 McIntosh Report on local government and the Scottish Parliament recommended both the retention of community councils (properly resourced) and the promotion of their role ‘within the wider context of the area approach adopted by many councils, as a means of obtaining the fullest possible consultation at the local level’.


The establishment of the Scottish Parliament raises a host of questions concerning local government, some of which have long been of importance (such as public apathy and mistrust (Carole Millar Research 1999), some of which arise because of devolution (particularly relationships between Parliament and local government), while others have arisen on the tide of reform which devolution has created (such as the electoral system). Whatever the reason, there is a major endeavour to improve the system of governance in Scotland. The Commission on Local Government and the Scottish Parliament (the McIntosh Report) has





Shetland Western Isles Moray


Aberdeenshire City of Aberdeen

Key Unitary areas

Angus and Mearns

Perthshire & Kinross

Two-tier areas

City of Dundee Fife


Argyll and Bute

1 6 North Ayrshire South Ayrshire

Coleraine Londonderry


2 4 3

City of Edinburgh 7 8

South Lanarkshire

Berwickshire & East Lothian

8 Borders


Dumfries and Galloway

Tyne & Wear

Ballymena Belfast

Omagh Enniskillen


Downpatrick Portadown

Durham 3 Cleveland 1 5 2 4 North Yorkshire 6

Lancashire Merseyside 11


Humberside 7 8

W Yorkshire

9 10 Gr S Manchester Yorkshire 14 13 Derby A Cheshire Notts Lincoln

Denbighshire Conwy Anglesey

15 18 17 Stafford 16 Norfolk Leicester 20 Shropshire 19 21 W Midlands Cambridge Northampton Ceredignon Powys Warwick Suffolk Bedford Worcester 23 22 24 Carmarthenshire Essex Bucks H Hertford Pembrokeshire L Gloucester Oxford J 36 37 C F I K Swansea London 29 G 26 25 D 31 33 30 E Avon 35 38 28 Wiltshire Berks32 Surrey Kent Hants Somerset W Sussex E Sussex 43 44 Devon Dorset 42 46 45 41 B


Cornwall 39



Figure 3.3 Planning Authorities in the UK Note: Divisional planning offices are shown for Northern Ireland





250 Kilometres


Non-metropolitan unitary councils 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Darlington Stockton-on-Tees Hartlepool Middlesbrough Redcar and Cleveland York East Riding of Yorkshire Kingston upon Hull North Lincolnshire North-East Lincolnshire Blackpool Blackburn Halton Warrington Stoke-on-Trent The Wrekin

17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Derby Nottingham Leicester Rutland Peterborough Herefordshire Milton Keynes Luton South Gloucestershire Bristol North-West Somerset Bath and North-East Somerset Thamesdown Newbury Reading

32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46

Wokingham Slough Windsor and Maidenhead Bracknell Forest Thurrock Southend Gillingham and Rochester upon Medway Plymouth Torbay Poole Bournemouth Southampton Portsmouth Isle of Wight Brighton and Hove

Metropolitan unitary district councils Greater Manchester Bolton Bury Manchester Oldham Rochdale Salford Stockport Tameside Trafford Wigan Merseyside Knowsley Liverpool

St Helens Sefton Wirral South Yorkshire Barnsley Doncaster Rotherham Sheffield

West Midlands Birmingham Coventry Dudley Sandwell Solihull Walsall Wolverhampton

Tyne & Wear Gateshead Newcastle upon Tyne North Tyneside South Tyneside Sunderland

West Yorkshire Bradford Calderdale Kirklees Leeds Wakefield

Hackney Hammersmith and Fulham Haringey Harrow Havering Hillingdon Hounslow Islington Kensington and Chelsea Kingston upon Thames Lambeth

Lewisham Merton Newham Redbridge Richmond upon Thames Southwark Sutton Tower Hamlets Waltham Forest Wandsworth



London borough councils Barking and Dagenham Barnet Bexley Brent Bromley Camden City of Westminster Croydon Ealing Enfield Greenwich

Wales A B C D

Flintshire Wrexham Neath and Port Talbot Bridgend

Figure 3.3 continued

Vale of Glamorgan Rhondda, Cynon, Taff Cardiff Merthyr Tydfil/Blaenau Gwent

Caerphilly Newport Torfaen Monmouthshire




BOX 3.5


Stirling Council has developed a range of ways of ensuring that it is attentive to the communities it serves, both in terms of policy development and service delivery. It has adopted a radical committee structure which focuses on people’s needs rather than the Council’s internal organisation (e.g. a children’s committee, a care committee, and environmental committee, and a community and economic development committee). It has created a ‘civic assembly’ which meets four times a year to give citizens and community groups the opportunity to scrutinise services and make an input to future planning for the area. Community councils are elected by postal ballot. There has been a

turnout of over 60 per cent in some areas. The Council goes out to discuss budget priorities with the communities, and over the last two years over 1,000 people have made their views on budget priorities known to the Council. Area forums are progressively being established for different localities within the Council area, to enable local communities to have an input into the decisions which affect them and to strengthen the accountability between local Council managers (who have been given substantial budget authority) and the people they serve. A network of local offices is maintained to give people convenient access to Council services.

Source: Scottish Office (1999) Report of the Community Planning Working Group recommended a number of wide-ranging proposals for reforming local government in the context of devolution. Its starting point is a declaration that relations between local government and the Parliament ought to be conducted on the basis of mutual respect and parity of esteem. . . . Councils, like Parliament, are democratically elected and consequently have their own legitimacy as part of the whole system of governance. (McIntosh Report 1999)

To play the role envisaged by the Commission, local government should take the initiative to respond to the challenges it now faces. It should review its procedures and ‘renew itself’. This involves citizen participation, not merely by way of consultation but also in decision-making; ‘open, transparent and intelligible’ methods of conducting business; a focus on the consumer; and quality and cost-effectiveness in the delivery of services. Local government needs to develop new ways of working in partnership: it is uniquely placed to take an overview of local needs and to provide leadership in ‘community planning’. It is on the basis of this type of thinking (and a long list of specific recommendations) that the Commission stresses that ‘the world is about to change for Scottish

local government’. Among its recommendations are the ratification of a covenant between the Parliament and the thirty-two councils setting out their working relationship. This concept of a direct working relationship between local and central government is ‘without parallel or precedent at Westminster’, though it is in harmony with the European Charter of Local SelfGovernment, as well as the Hunt Report.35 Other proposals include a statutory power of general competence, thus freeing local authorities from the limitations imposed by the constitutional position that they can carry out only those specific powers granted by legislation; further study of the ways in which local authorities may become financially more independent; and a review of local government elections, with the introduction of proportional representation in 2002. This selection of recommendations gives some flavour of the extent to which Scottish local government is under fundamental review.36 In addition, there is a consultative process under way for determining a new ethical framework.37 This includes a review of aspects of the planning process, such as the training of members for the work of a planning committee, and the introduction of ‘best practice’ (see the discussion in Chapter 12).


As with somewhat more modest English ideas for modernising local government, these are big aspirations which can be met only by major changes in the culture of local government (Brooks 1999: 43).


The reorganisation of local government in Wales proceeded more quickly than in England. The review was carried out by the Welsh Office (rather than by an independent commission) and the country was considered as a whole (rather than by separate areas). After a two-year period of consultation, a White Paper, Local Government in Wales: A Charter for the Future, was published, in 1993, setting out detailed proposals. There was widespread agreement that the new structure should be unitary in character, and the debate was focused on the number and boundaries of the new local authorities. The underlying thinking included a restoration of authorities which had been swept up in an earlier reorganisation (Cardiff, Swansea, Newport) and some of the traditional counties, such as Pembrokeshire and Anglesey. However, to fit into a unitary structure, the boundaries had to be stretched somewhat, and a number of counties had to be amalgamated. After consideration of proposals for thirteen, twenty, and twenty-four unitary councils, the final outcome was twenty-two authorities. (Reflecting their history, these have varied formal names such as county borough, city, and county council, but they all have the same functions.) They range in population from 66,000 in Cardiganshire to 318,000 in Cardiff. In the White Paper, the unitary system was commended for its administrative simplicity, its roots in history, its familiarity, and the relative ease with which residents could identify ‘with their own communities and localities’. The intention was to create ‘good local government which is close to the communities it serves’. The White Paper continued: Its aims are to establish authorities which, so far as possible, are based on that strong sense of community identity that is such an important feature of Welsh life; which are clearly accessible to local people; which can, by

taking full advantage of the ‘enabling’ role of local government, operate in an efficient and responsive way; and which will work with each other, and with other agencies, to promote the well-being of those they serve.

These desirable objectives do not all work in the same direction, of course, and some compromise was inevitable. Some of the areas are very large. Powys, for example, has over 500,000 hectares: this is a very large area for local government. There is potential for the community councils to take on an increased role, but the Welsh Office has stressed that there is no intention of forming a second tier of local government. WELSH LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND THE WELSH ASSEMBLY

Preparations for devolution in Wales were far less advanced than they were in Scotland, where there was a much firmer expectation that devolution would take place. The first steps included the mounting of a consultation exercise on the establishment of a Partnership Council with local government. This Council was mandated by the Government of Wales Act. It consists of twenty-five members: ten from the Assembly, ten from the county and county boroughs, two from the community councils, and one each from the police authorities, the fire authorities, and the national park authorities (NAW, The Partnership Council: Preparing the Ground, 1999). The Assembly has also produced a paper on the development of planning policy (The Approach to Future Land Use Planning Policy, 1999) Unlike the English and Scottish planning policy guidance publications, the Welsh guidance is published in two guidance notes only: ‘This enables the inter-relationships between policies to be clarified, and means that each revision has to be a full one across all policy topics, rather than piecemeal.’ The guidance closely follows the English publications and has relied on DETR research and policy development. The question of its Welsh distinctiveness has been debated, and the paper concludes: Planning policy for Wales should no longer track DETR priorities slavishly, nor should it diverge from GB policies



TOWN AND COUNTRY PLANNING IN THE UK unless this is for good reason. Both the process of developing planning policy, and its content, should be appropriate to Welsh circumstances, and be produced in a shorter time scale than hitherto.

It is stressed that in developing planning policies, there should be a partnership with local government, business, and the voluntary sector. To facilitate this, a forum is to be established. This will include representatives from a wide range of organisations, and will have the remit ‘to inform planning research and policy development’. To ensure that Welsh needs are fully met, a Welsh Planning Research Programme is to be developed. A Research Scoping Study has been mounted to identify key research areas. These will include speeding up the preparation of development plans; planning for rural areas; planning and integrated transport; improving local authority development control performance; waste planning; making planning more responsive to business; and locational policy for renewable energy (e.g. wind farms).


Local government in Northern Ireland was last reorganised in 1973, when thirty-eight authorities, made up of counties, county and municipal boroughs, and urban districts, were replaced by a single tier of twenty-six district councils. Although this reduced the enormous variation in the size of districts (previously ranging from 2,000 to over 400,000), there is still a wide variation, from Moyle with a population of some 15,000 to Belfast City with a population approaching 300,000. Planning powers were centralised under the then Northern Ireland Ministry of Development. Since the demise of the power-sharing Northern Ireland Assembly in 1974, planning, like all public services, has been subject to ‘direct rule’ under the supervision of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The preparation of plans and the control of development are functions of the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland (DoENI), which it exercises through the Planning Service (an executive agency).

Local government is consulted only on the preparation of plans and development control matters. The lack of accountability through local government (described as the ‘democratic deficit’) obviously needs to be seen in the light of the very special circumstances, though it has been judged to have operated with a ‘considerable measure of success’ (Hendry 1992: 84). Nevertheless, local councillors have been able to attack planning and to ‘represent themselves as the champions of the local electorate against the imposed rule of central government’ (Hendry 1989: 121). Even when the central bureaucracy has made determined efforts to open decision-making and involve local people, it has been accused of having ulterior motives (Blackman 1991b). The promise of a ‘lasting peace’ in Northern Ireland during the ill-fated ceasefire brought with it ideas for reform which are still on the agenda. Several possible scenarios have been suggested, including the continuation of a central planning authority accountable to an elected Assembly, devolution to joint regional boards, and complete delegation of powers to the Districts (RICS 1994). The relatively weak position of local government over many years and the dearth of skills and experience will not be put right quickly. It is likely that any reform will be introduced incrementally. The volatile political conditions in the Province make prediction impossible.


The abolition of the Greater London Council in 1986 left a gap in the machinery of government which was cumbersome, inefficient, and indefensible. London became the only Western capital city without an elected city government. Some functions carried out by the GLC were transferred in part to the London boroughs, but many were taken over by a range of joint bodies, committees, ad hoc agencies, and suchlike (including the London Planning Advisory Committee, which prepared strategic planning guidance for the capital). The result was ‘a degree of complexity that can be seen not so much as a “streamlining” as a return


to the administrative “tangle” of the 19th century’ (Wilson and Game 1998: 54). The Labour Party’s election manifesto promised a referendum ‘to confirm popular demand’ for a strategic authority and mayor. The referendum was held in 1998, and though only a third of Londoners voted, there was an overall 72 per cent majority. The Greater London Authority Bill provides for an elected Mayor and an elected Greater London Assembly (GLA). The Mayor is to be no figurehead, but a highly influential leader. In the words of the 1998 White Paper A Mayor and Assembly for London, ‘the Mayor will have a major role in improving the economic, social and environmental well-being of Londoners, and will be expected to do this by integrating key activities’. The main responsibilities include: • The production of an integrated transport strategy for London (extending to transport issues for which the Mayor is not directly responsible) to be implemented by a new executive agency, Transport for London (TfL), which will have responsibility for a wide range of services including London’s bus and light rail services, the Croydon Tramlink, the Docklands Light Railway, the Victoria Coach Station, taxis and minicabs, and river services. It will also acquire responsibility for a strategic London road network. Government funding will be paid in a single block grant, and capital investment schemes within the budget available will not require central government approval. • Preparation of strategic planning guidance for London in the form of a new Spatial Development Strategy (SDS). The content of this will be for the Mayor to decide, but will include transport, economic development and regeneration, housing, retail development and town centres, leisure facilities, heritage, waste management, and guidance for particular parts of London such as the central area and the existing Thames Policy Area (there are also other strategies, including transport). The unitary development plans of the boroughs will be required to be ‘in general conformity’ with the SDS. Development control will remain with the boroughs, but the Mayor will be

a statutory consultee for planning applications of strategic importance, and will have defined powers of intervention, which are already being used for significant applications. The setting of an economic development and regeneration strategy for London. A London Development Agency will be appointed by, and responsible to, the Mayor. Improvement of London’s environment, the development of an air quality management strategic plan, and the production of a report every four years on the state of the environment in London. Appointment of half the members of a new independent Metropolitan Police Authority, and scrutiny of the policies of the Authority. Overall responsibility for a new London Fire and Civil Defence Authority, and appointment of the majority of its members. Preparation of a strategy for the development of the culture, media and leisure sectors, appointments and nominations to the key cultural organisations.

Clearly this is a highly significant change to the government of London, providing an eloquent indication of the government’s commitment to a more effective and democratic system of government. The position of Mayor will not be an easy one, since it will involve extensive – and intensive – negotiation with the London boroughs and innumerable governmental bodies, as well as many professional and voluntary organisations. However, the arrangements have been carefully thought through, and there is a general commitment to make them work.


For town and country planning, the apparent and seemingly paradoxical outcome of change in the 1980s and 1990s has been a larger and stronger body of planners with widened statutory functions. The indirect effect of market deregulation, the increasing complexity of development issues, and the growing




emphasis on environmental protection was bound to lead to a greater demand for planning skills (Healey 1989). The concept of an ‘enabling’ local government also increases the need for strategic thinking and focuses attention on the corporate planning function (Carter et al. 1991). The direct impact on the way in which the planning service is delivered is less significant. So far, planning has been subjected to only minimal change in comparison to other services, and the concept of the local authority as ‘enabler’ requires more attention to strategy and in-house planning, rather than less. The conclusion has to be that, in contrast to most local services, planning as a statutory and regulatory function has been somewhat protected from the pressure for change. Nevertheless, there has been a clear increase in contracting out planning tasks, particularly those of a specialist nature, such as retail studies and environmental assessment.38 Moreover, the spread of auditing and ‘value for money’ (VFM) has been given a new gloss by the Labour government with the concept of ‘Best Value’.39 These are not easy concepts to define for planning because of the difficulty of assessing quality in plans and planning decisions. The Audit Commission provides guidance for local authorities and district auditors on performance indicators for all services, including planning, but these have been criticised for the reliance on quantitative measures, the classic example being the proportion of applications decided within eight weeks. Best Value requires that performance reviews are prepared looking ahead over a five-year period, starting with areas of work where there are problems. The reviews must challenge why and how the service is being provided; invite comparison with others’ performance across a range of relevant indicators; involve consultation with local taxpayers, service users, and the wider business community in the setting of new performance targets; and embrace fair competition as a means of securing efficient and effective services. The reviews will produce new performance targets to be published in an annual local performance plan together with comparisons with other authorities (note that the District Audit Service is to stop producing the annual local authority reports based on CIPFA statistics); identification of forward targets for all services

annually and in the longer term (at least five years); and commentary on how the targets will be achieved, including proposed changes to procedures. Local performance plans will be audited. The Audit Commission’s 1992 report Building in Quality addressed criticisms of the accent on efficiency rather than effectiveness of the planning system in performance review. It made a real attempt to introduce a wider assessment, recognising that there were many ancillary tasks in providing advice and negotiating with applicants, and making ‘complex professional and political judgments’. After consultation, the Audit Commission settled on six key indicators. As with the earlier version, these concentrate on matters of efficiency rather than on the effectiveness of the system, though the added breadth of performance review will be a significant improvement on previous practice. The consultation document on this lists seven ‘best value performance indicators’ (or BVPIs as they are inevitably called). They are reproduced in Box 3.6. Much of this ‘business’ approach to local government stemmed from the Conservative government’s concern to reduce the autonomy of local government. Rate capping and compulsory competitive tendering (CCT) were striking examples of this. The former has been greatly reduced by the Blair government as part of its programme for modernising and democratising local government.40 Compulsory competitive tendering has been replaced by the principles of ‘Best Value’. The 1998 White Paper Modern Local Government: In Touch with the People succinctly describes this as ‘a duty to deliver services to clear standards – covering both cost and quality – by the most effective, economic and efficient means available’. This is essentially a positive recasting of the ‘enabling’ concept. (This is the norm in western Europe, with local government implementing its functions through a diverse range of agencies, often in partnership, but essentially seeing its role as prioritising community needs and acting as the focus for local political activity.) Best Value is also seen as an aid to local government ‘to address the cross-cutting issues facing their citizens and communities, such as community safety or sustainable development, which are beyond the reach of a single service or service provider’. The ‘very best-performing councils’ will be


BOX 3.6


Percentage of new homes built on previously developed land. Planning cost per head of population. The number of advertised departures from the statutory plan approved by the authority as a percentage of total permissions granted. Percentage of applications determined within 8 weeks. Average time taken to determine all applications. Score against a checklist of planning best practice. (The answer should be ‘yes’ to all questions.) Do you have a development plan which was adopted in the last 5 years? If ‘no’, For those adopted plans not adopted in the last 5 years, are there proposals on deposit for their alteration or replacement, and have you publicly adopted a timetable for adopting those alterations or the replacement plan? Does your development plan contain a comprehensive set of indicators and targets and do you monitor your performance against these? Has all supplementary planning guidance (including planning briefs) produced and adopted by you during the last year followed the guidance given in paragraphs of Planning Policy? Do you provide for pre-application discussions with potential applicants on request? Do you have a publicised charter which sets targets for handling the different stages of the development control process (including enforcement and compliance) and arrangements for monitoring your performance against these targets? Is the percentage of appeals where the council’s decision has been overturned lower than 40%? Does your authority delegate 70% or more of its applications to officers? In the last financial year, have you run your planning service in such a way that: a) you have not had any planning costs awarded against you; b) you have not had any adverse ombudsman’s reports issued against you finding maladministration with or without injustice; and c) there have been no court findings against you under sections 287 and 288 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 or on judicial review? Does your council operate a one stop shop service which includes the following characteristics: a) a single point giving initial advice to members of the public and other enquirers on all development-related consents operated by the authority; b) application discussions covering all the development-related consent regimes operated by the authority which are appropriate to each potential applicant; and c) a nominated case officer acting as the contact point within the authority for each planning applicant and coordinating the authority’s response to the application including progress and advising on the application’s relationship to other development-related consents. Have you implemented a policy for ensuring that different groups have equal access to the planning process including, as necessary, the provision of advice in ethnic minority languages and in Braille/on tape based on consultation with relevant members of the community about the accessibility of the planning service, and do you have arrangements for keeping this policy under review?




eligible for ‘Beacon’ status, normally for particular services. Applicant councils will be chosen by an independent advisory panel, and will be rewarded by being given wider discretion in the operation of the beacon service. Streamlining planning decisions for business is one of seven priority service areas which will be judged. A new statutory duty has been placed on local authorities to promote the economic, social, and environmental well-being of their areas. This is in line with the European Charter of Local Self-Government, which provides that local authorities can do anything to further their electors’ interest unless prevented by statute. (The previous Conservative government refused to sign this charter, preferring to keep local authorities under central control (Jenkins 1996: 254–8). These are some of the elements of the local government modernisation programme which, at the time of writing, is emerging from the Blair government. Others include proposals for a major recasting of the political structures of local authorities, with cabinetstyle executives in place of the traditional committee system, and a separation of planning policy and development control functions (White Paper Local Leadership, Local Choice, 1999). Under this model, planning decisions would be taken by a quasi-judicial planning committee. Whether the separation of policy and its execution is viable is debatable. The RTPI has argued convincingly that it is impracticable.41


Local government has for long had a reputation for probity, particularly in planning, where foreign observers are quick to point out the obvious opportunities (nay: temptations) for corruption. That the temptations have not always been resisted is now well known. It was in the 1970s that the Poulson scandal blew up: several local authority politicians and officials were found guilty of securing contracts for the architectural business of John Poulson. A number of well-known figures went to jail. It was an extreme case, and shocked the local government world. It led

to the setting up of a Royal Commission on Standards of Conduct in Public Life and to the introduction of a National Code of Local Government Conduct. There have been other cases of local government impropriety, particularly in the planning arena, of which the most recent were in Warwick, Bassetlaw (Nottinghamshire) and Newark.42 Currently, there is considerable argument about the alleged misdoings of some Doncaster councillors and officials.43 Though only a small number of such cases have arisen, they are clearly unacceptable. In fact, the numbers involved were certainly fewer than the number of cases of Westminster ‘sleaze’ (a conveniently vague and all-embracing term) in the later years of the Conservative government.44 This led to the appointment of a Committee on Standards in Public Life, under the chairmanship of Lord Nolan, which embarked upon a series of inquiries into various areas of public life. Its third report, devoted to local government, was published in 1997.45 The Nolan inquiry was concerned not to put local government on trial but to provide guidance on what standards of conduct should apply and how they could be maintained. The National Code was criticised for being inadequate, complicated, and, in parts, inconsistent and even impenetrable. Moreover, in the words of Standards of Conduct in Local Government (para. 56), it represented ‘something that is done to local authorities, rather than done with them’. Building upon the report, the government proposed a ‘new ethical framework’ to govern the conduct of elected members and also local government employees (who were not covered by the National Code). A Code of Conduct, based on a national model, is required of all local authorities, together with a Standards Committee to oversee ethical issues and to provide guidance on the code and its implementation. An independent Standards Board will have the responsibility of investigating alleged breaches of the local authority’s code.46 Planning was seen to require additional measures. Because of its complexity and the problems of dealing fairly and properly with planning law and its implementation, it was proposed that members of planning committees should be trained in the planning


system.47 There should also be a greater degree of openness in the planning process; this would, among other things, assist in dealing with the problems facing local authorities in granting permission for their own proposed developments, and ‘the potential for planning permission being bought and sold’. In coming to these conclusions, the Nolan Report noted that in 1947 ‘the need for postwar reconstruction was clear. Development enjoyed broad public support.’ Things have now changed. Development is now a term which has a pejorative ring, and the planning system is seen by many people as a way of preventing major changes to cherished townscapes and landscapes. If the system does not achieve this (and it is a role which it was not originally designed to perform), then the result can be public disillusionment. (Standards of Conduct in Local Government, para. 277)

In Scotland a 1998 consultation paper on the Nolan Report, ‘A New Ethical Framework for Local Government in Scotland’, broadly accepted its recommendations, but took issue with a number of them. It proposed a single code for all local governments (instead of a model code), and it favoured a national Standards Commission instead of local authority standards committees. It also argued that reasons should not be required for the granting of planning permission since such decisions are not subject to any appeal process, and it would not only add to the difficulties facing a planning committee but put permissions at increased risk of legal challenge on purely technical grounds. These and related matters are discussed in Chapters 5 (development permission for local authority developments), 6 (planning gain) and 12.


European Government The institutions and policies of the EU are summarised in a series of free booklets, Europe on the Move, which are updated periodically (available from the UK Office of the European Commission at Jean Monnet House,

8 Storey’s Gate, London SW1 – and a long list of free publications is available at . For a summary of the history of the EU, see Borchardt (1995) European Integration: The Origins and Growth of the European Community. There are a great many general accounts of the making of the European Union, including the very comprehensive Encyclopedia of the European Union edited by Dinan (1998); and Borchardt (1995) European Integration: The Origins and Growth of the European Community. For a more critical account, see Chisholm (1995) Britain on the Edge of Europe; and for a more theoretical view of European integration, Nelson and Stubb (1998) The European Union; and Emerson (1998) Redrawing the Map of Europe. There are also a great number of texts on EC Law and institutions, many of which are no more than reprints of official texts. Tillotson (2000) European Union Law, and Craig and de Búrca (1999) EU Law are useful in their own right, and these are also updated regularly and provide brief summaries of the history of the EU. The history of each policy area in which the Community has acted, including regional policy, environment and transport, is given in Moussis (1999) Access to European Union Law, Economics, Policies. Williams (1996) European Union Spatial Policy and Planning gives an account of the European institutions from a planning perspective. A chronological review of how Europe has influenced planning is given in Nadin (1999) ‘British planning in its European context’; and there are two DETR research reports that address the consequences of the development of European policies for planning in the UK: Nadin and Shaw (1999) Subsidiarity and Proportionality in Spatial Planning Activities in the European Union, and Wilkinson et al. (1998) The Impact of the European Union on UK Planning Practice. See also Bishop et al. (2000) ‘From spatial to local: the impact of the European Union on local authority planning in the UK’, and Shaw et al. (2000) Regional Planning and Development in Europe. Further references on European spatial planning are given at the end of Chapter 4. On European comparative planning systems, including the organisation of government, see the EU Compendium of Spatial Planning Systems and Policies,




which comprises individual volumes describing the systems and policies of spatial planning in each member state, and a comparative review; Davies et al. (1989b) Planning Control in Western Europe; and Seaton and Nadin (2000) A Comparison of Environmental Planning Systems Legislation in Selected Countries. Central Government Whitehall by Hennessy (1989) is an insightful analysis of the culture of the British civil service and the changes that have been imposed upon it. See also Drewry and Butcher (1991) The Civil Service Today. Osborne and Gaebler (1992) Reinventing Government give a coloured account of changes which they perceive in the US systems of government: resemblances with the British scene are striking, even if inconclusive. An invaluable overview, though now dated, is given by Dynes and Walker (1995) The Times Guide to the New British State: The Government Machine in the 1990s. A more up-to-date examination of the British system of government is the deservedly popular account by Birch (tenth edition 1998). Jones and Kavanagh (1998) provide a good introduction to British politics today in the sixth edition of their book. On Northern Ireland, see Connolly and Loughlin (1990) Public Policy in Northern Ireland: Adoption or Adaptation?. An up-to-date summary description of government departments and their functions is given in the annual official handbook Britain, prepared by the Central Office of Information. Greater detail is given in the annual Whitaker’s Almanack. A principal source of information on the work of government departments is the Departmental Annual Reports. These are the Government’s Expenditure Plans for the forthcoming three years and are sometimes referenced in this way. They are now available on the Internet. An excellent insight into the operation of central government in exercising its controls over local government is given in Read and Wood (1994) ‘Policy, law and practice’. Devolved and Regional Government On devolution, the essential book is Bogdanor (1999)

Devolution in the United Kingdom (which has been the main source for the discussion in the text, and which has an extensive bibliography). See also the excellent set of essays edited by Hazell (1999) Constitutional Futures: A History of the Next Ten Years; Connal and Scott (1999) ‘The New Scottish Parliament: what will its impact be?’ McCarthy and Newlands (1999) Governing Scotland: Problems and Prospects – The Economic Impact of the Scottish Parliament; and Bosworth and Shellens (1999) ‘How the Welsh Assembly will affect planning’. The two White Papers were Scotland’s Parliament (Cm 3658) and A Voice for Wales (Cm 3718). Important for the current debate are the various official publications, particularly DETR (1997) Building Partnerships for Prosperity; and DETR (1998) The Future of Regional Planning Guidance. Baker (1998) provides a useful statement of the position of regional land use planning in ‘Planning for the English regions: a review of the Secretary of State’s regional planning guidance’. Mawson (1996) reviews the re-emergence of the regional agenda in the English regions, while the history of the two strands of regional planning (interregional economic and intra-regional land use) and the move towards ‘a more integrated and comprehensive approach’ are well analysed by Roberts and Lloyd (1999) ‘Institutional aspects of regional planning, management, and development: models and lessons from the English experience’. Roberts et al. (1999) provide an extensive discussion of Metropolitan planning in Britain, with case studies of nine British metropolitan regions. The progress of the RDAs and their strategies is being monitored by various academic centres. See, for example, Roberts and Lloyd (1998) Developing Regional Potential (Centre for Planning Research, University of Dundee); Nathan et al. (1999) Strategies for Success? (Centre for Local Government Economic Strategies, Manchester); and Deas and Ward (2000) ‘The song has ended but the melody lingers’. See also the statements and publications of the English Regional Associations (, including the 1999 Regional Governance: Statement of General Principles. Additionally, there is Charter 88, whose publications include Tomaney and Mitchell (1999) Empowering the English Regions.


Hall’s essay ‘The regional dimension’ (1999a) gives an overview of postwar regional economic policy, with a short comment on regional land use planning. Bradbury and Mawson (1997) British Regionalism and Devolution: The Challenges of State Reform and European Integration provide an informative analysis of the emergence of regionalism from a number of perspectives. Wannop (1995) The Regional Imperative: Regional Planning and Governance in Britain, Europe and the United States is an excellent account, by a knowledgeable practitioner, of the endeavours to plan on a regional scale, primarily in the UK, but also in Europe and the USA. Two different aspects of the development of regionalism are discussed in Mawson (1996) ‘The re-emergence of the regional agenda in the English regions: new patterns of urban and regional governance’, and Garmise (1997) ‘The impact of European regional policy on the development of the regional tier in the UK’. Local Government The principal textbooks which give a general introduction to local government structure and organisation are Elcock (1994) Local Government, Chandler (1996) Local Government Today, and the second edition of Wilson and Game (1998) Local Government in the United Kingdom. For an overview of the politics of local government, including the roles and relationships between councillors, officers, and political parties, see Stoker (1991) The Politics of Local Government. On changing management approaches, see Stoker’s volume of essays The New Management of British Local Governance (1999). See also Allen (1990) Cultivating the Grass Roots: Why Local Government Matters; and for an examination of the relationship between planning and changing government, see Vigar et al. (2000) Planning, Governance and Spatial Strategy in Britain. European comparisons are given by Hirsch (1994) A Positive Role for Local Government: Lessons for Britain from Other Countries and Batley and Stoker (1991) Local Government in Europe. There are several reports of foreign experience and practice in local government prepared for the Commission on Local Government and the Scottish Parliament: Hughes et al. (1998) The

Constitutional Status of Local Government in Other Countries; Hambleton (1998) Local Government Political Management Arrangements: An International Perspective; University of Edinburgh (1999) Summary of Devolved Parliaments in the European Union; and Centre for Scottish Public Policy (1999) Parliamentary Practices in Devolved Parliaments. On Scotland and Wales, see Carmichael (1992) ‘Is Scotland different?’; Boyne et al. (1995) Local Government Reform: A Review of the Process in Scotland and Wales; and Midwinter (1995) Local Government in Scotland. On devolution to Scotland and Wales, Bogdanor (1999) is essential reading. On Northern Ireland, see Bannon et al. (1989) Planning: The Irish Experience 1920–1988; Hendry (1992) ‘Plans and planning policy for Belfast’; and a short paper by Lipman (1999) ‘Difficult decisions in a rural balancing act’. Parish councils are the subject of a survey by the Public Sector Management Research Centre (1992) Parish Councils in England. A Welsh Office consultation paper was issued in 1992: The Role of Community and Town Councils in Wales. A particularly interesting document is the Scottish Office (1999) Report of the Community Planning Working Group. On central–local government relations, see Cochrane (1993) Whatever Happened to Local Government?. A case for improving relations is made in Carter and John (1992) A New Accord: Promoting Constructive Relations between Central and Local Government. Local Government in the 1990s is a collection of essays edited by Stewart and Stoker (1995). See also Jones and Stewart (1983) The Case for Local Government. A lively critical analysis of the Conservative government’s attitudes and policies in relation to local government is provided by Simon Jenkins (1995) in Accountable to None: The Tory Nationalisation of Britain. A useful postwar review is Young and Rao (1997) Local Government since 1945. The rate of change in local government under the Blair government requires a perusal of the relevant journals, such as Local Government Chronicle and Municipal Review. See also Hambleton (2000) ‘Modernising political management in local government’. There have been a large number of official publications discussing and proposing changes in the operation of local government. Of particular




importance are Modern Local Government: In Touch with the People (Cm 4014, 1998); Local Leadership. Local Choice (Cm 4298, 1999); and A Mayor and Assembly for London (Cm 3897, 1998). For references on ‘the ethical local authority’, see Chapter 12.


1 The countries that have applied for membership of the EU are Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Turkey. Agreement was reached for Norway to join in 1972 and 1995, but on both occasions membership was rejected by a referendum. Switzerland has also applied for accession; its application was accepted by the EU but rejected in a referendum in 1992. Iceland is the only significant western European country which has not sought accession to the EU. 2 The CSD is to be incorporated into the committee that provides advice on the Structural Funds, which is a formal EU committee. 3 The European Treaties lay the foundation for economic and political integration. The first was the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) of 1951, which was followed in 1957 by the European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC or Euratom) and the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community (later to become the Treaty establishing the European Community, TEC) both signed in Rome. The latter is generally referred to as the ‘Treaty of Rome’, and set objectives for the creation of the Economic Community and established the basis institutions which would achieve it. The Treaties have subsequently been amended by the Single European Act (SEA) of 1987, which made firm the commitment to creating the Single Market; the Treaty on European Union (TEU) of 1992, known as the Maastricht Treaty, which considerably widened the areas of cooperation of the Union into foreign affairs, defence, and justice; and the Amsterdam Treaty of 1997 (although not coming into force

4 5 6


8 9 10


until 1999), which prepared for enlargement and made sustainable development an objective of the Union. During the process of preparing the Amsterdam Treaties it was decided to consolidate the Treaties, but in the event this was limited to a tidying up of the numbers of articles in the TEU and the TEC. The addition of numerous protocols (which have legal force) and declarations has increased the complexity, and navigating the treaties is very much a job for experts. Romano Prodi’s speech to the European Parliament, 14th September 1999, Strasbourg. It came into full effect in October 2000. Alistair Darling, HC Debates, 11 June 1997, col. 1144, quoted in James (1999: 194–5). See the White Paper Modern Public Services in Britain: Investing in Reform (Cm 4011, 1998). James (1999: 42). Of course, many things had changed since Wilson’s time, including those brought about by Mrs Thatcher. On a later page (p. 45), James comments that ‘The Thatcher Government’s biggest impact on Whitehall may have been to alter attitudes by proving how much can be achieved by sheer political will.’ Jill Sherman, ‘Whitehall faces major revamp’, The Times 12 July 1999. Michael White, ‘Whitehall warfare’, Guardian 12 August 1999. In 1999 there was press speculation that the DETR would be ‘downsized’, either by separating transport again (allegedly because of public dissatisfaction with inadequate transport policies) or by allocating responsibilities for the countryside to a new department of rural affairs (thus demonstrating the government’s commitment in an area where there has been considerable controversy). In the event the DETR lost its responsibilities for rural and environment affairs to DEFRA, and for the government offices for the regions to the Cabinet Office, after the June 2001 election. In 1999, the Department requested local authorities to volunteer to pilot local cultural strategies. Draft guidance on these strategies has been circulated for consultation. (The Greater London









Authority has a specific duty to produce a cultural strategy for London.) Curiously, in 1999 the Ministry made the first ever use of its powers under section 43(6) of the Planning Act to veto the allocation of highgrade farmland in East Yorkshire for development. This was overruled by the Secretary of State for the Environment. See Planning 26 February 1999: 1. The extract is from a statement issued by MAFF in July 1999. The statement continues: ‘There will be less emphasis than hitherto on detailed input to local plans and on ad hoc planning applications. As far as possible, FRCA will complete discussions with local planning authorities and other bodies in respect of existing consultations, but it will no longer be possible to undertake detailed field work to establish the correct Agricultural Land Classification grading of proposed development sites. Instead, greater use will be made of desk studies and predictive mapping techniques when evaluating proposals from LPAs for allocations to development. . . . These changes should be fully in place by 31 March 2000.’ All figures refer to England only and are taken from the Planning Inspectorate (2000) Statistical Report 1999–2000, Bristol: PIEA. Whereas in 1993–94 the duration from the opening of an average inquiry to the submission of the inspectors report was 40 weeks, by 1995–96 this had increased to 49 weeks. The Inspectorate’s statistical report suggests that it can be called upon to adjudicate in relation to about 200 categories of work. See the DETR research report on the Environmental Court Project (2000) and the memorandum of evidence by Professor Malcolm Grant to the Select Committee Inquiry. ‘The Department monitors all draft plans . . . this is a formidable task. In England it is undertaken by the Regional Offices of the Department. . . . For many years the Department has maintained a Planning Handbook which gives internal guidance to decision-making officers on

19 20




24 25 26


procedural questions. This guides officers in monitoring development plans. The Handbook is now computerised and can be instantly updated. This is the primary tool for the coordination of Departmental action. It is not a public document. Officers are advised to check the wording of policies and proposals against current planning guidance. Realism is looked for, in particular whether sites said to be available can actually be developed. A most difficult task is to identify possible strategic implications of local policies. . . . The Department also encourages informal approaches to regional offices by development plan teams in the course of plan preparation’ (Read and Wood 1994: 10). See pp. 30–1 and 52–4. The Welsh Office has been renamed Wales Office, but the term is applicable only in Whitehall. In Wales, the reference is to the Assembly for Wales (Welsh Affairs Committee, The Role of the Secretary of State for Wales, 26 October 1999, HC 854, para. 36). The decision to grant legislative powers to Scotland, but only executive power to Wales, ‘had as much to do with political compromise and accident as with any rational argument’ (Osmond 1997: 149.) Planning policy guidance in various forms has been issued by the Welsh Office for some years. See particularly Unitary Development Plans (1966) and Planning Policy (first revision 1999). See Fourth Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation, 3 March 1999, Draft Strategic Planning (Northern Ireland) Order 1999. See Regional Chambers (DETR 1999). An encouraging insight is given by Kitchen (1999a). In the inelegant language of the Act (section 4.2), ‘A regional development agency’s purposes apply as much in relation to the rural parts of its area as in relation to the non-rural parts of its area.’ The rural regeneration functions of the Rural Development Commission have been transferred to the RDAs. (Other functions have been merged in the new Countryside Agency.) An interesting










history of the RDC is A. Rogers (1999) The Most Revolutionary Measure: A History of the Rural Development Commission 1909–1999. See DoE (1993) East Thames Corridor: A Study of Development Capacity and Potential; DoE (1995) The Thames Gateway Planning Framework (RPG 9a); and Haughton et al. (1997). ‘Super-regional structure to be in place within two years’, Planning 30 July 1999, p. 1. See also the supplementary evidence presented to the Select Committee, op. cit., vol. 3, pp. 163–7. HC Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee, Environment Subcommittee (1999) HC 232 (Session 1998–99), 3 vols. See, for example, memorandum by the TCPA (vol. 2, p. 45), and memorandum by the DETR (vol. 2, p. 71). How far these developments are to be judged as ‘clusters’ (or even one ‘cluster’) is problematic. There has been strong governmental backing for clusters (in the White Paper Our Competitive Future: Building the Knowledge Driven Economy (Cm 4176, 1998) – generally referred to as ‘the Competitiveness White Paper – and the Sainsbury Report, Biotechnology Clusters (DTI 1999). There has been a surprisingly general enthusiasm for clusters, despite the vagueness of the concept. (Note their popularity in the RDA regional strategies.) For a critical view, see Perry (1999). An informative short account of the Cambridge proposals and the DETR decisions is that of Green. Government Office for the South East (1999) Regional Planning Guidance for the South East of England: Public Examination May–June 1999 – Report of the Panel, paras 4.8–4.10. A good case in point is a Surrey plan of 1993 in which overriding importance was given to environmental and infrastructure policies. The Report of the Panel on the Examination in Public held that the plan did not ‘adequately provide for industry and commerce’ and concluded that the employment policies in the plan needed to be changed ‘so as to be more responsive to the needs of business’. A similar stance was taken in

34 35





relation to Hampshire, where policies were designed to control the rate of growth in order to safeguard the environment, character, and heritage of the county. The Secretary of State backed the view of the Panel that Hampshire could not be regarded as an ‘economic island’. In strong terms he denounced the proposed policies as ‘a recipe for economic decline’ (Read and Wood 1994: 26). Ibid. The Hunt Report (1996) is the Report of the Lords Select Committee on Relations between Central and Local Government. The European Charter of SelfGovernment is reproduced in an appendix to the McIntosh Report. The Executive’s response was issued in October 1999: The Scottish Executive’s Response to the Report of the Commission on Local Government and the Scottish Parliament (). SO (1998) A New Ethical Framework for Local Government in Scotland: Consultation Paper. This stems from the Nolan Report, Standards of Conduct in Local Government (Cm 3702, 1997). On the basis of research carried out for the RTPI, Higgins and Allmendinger (1999) argue that ‘contracting out now appears to be a permanent and growing feature of UK public planning’. Their research is published by the RTPI (1996) Contracting Out Planning Services. The business campaign group London First has pointed to the ‘obvious’ advantage of the Mayor for London contracting out specific research to specialist external agencies. It notes that there are ‘especially strong agencies’ in the fields of land use planning and economic development (Planning, 30 July 1999: 2). The Local Government Act 1999 defines best value as ‘securing continuous improvement in the exercise of all functions undertaken by the local authority, whether statutory or not, having regard to a combination of economy, efficiency and effectiveness’. The ‘extremely uneven progress’ in introducing Best Value into planning is reported by Thomas (1999). On the application of Best


Value to parish councils, see DETR (1999) The Application of Best Value to Town and Parish Councils. See also Warwick Business School (1999). 40 Capping as such is abolished, but there are reserve powers of a more discriminating nature. 41 ‘Development control is not – or should not be – an after-the-fact regulatory process. It is instead the implementation of the plan and, as such continuously feeds back into it, identifying the changes in circumstances which require changes in criteria, revision of policies and supplementary planning guidance. It is vitally important that those who guide the preparation of plans should be, as far as possible, those who work to implement them’; RTPI evidence to the Joint Committee on the Draft Local Government Organisation and Standards Bill see the Committee’s report, paras 117–20. But see Hambleton and Sweeting (1999a). 42 See External Enquiry into Issues of Concern about the Administration of the Planning System in Warwick District Council (1994), and Report of an Independent Inquiry into Certain Planning Issues in Bassetlaw (1996). On the Newark case, see Planning 29 October 1999: 2, and 5 November 1999: 15. Note also the North Cornwall case referred to earlier (p. 48).

43 See Planning 12 November 1999: 1. 44 Allen (1990: 12) has commented that ‘central agencies are often at least as incompetent, inefficient or corrupt as local bodies . . . local authorities are perennially in the news for alleged corruption and graft . . . one or two notorious cases can suffice to keep the whole concept of local government in disrepute’. For a catalogue of cases of corruption in public administration, see Doig (1984). 45 The first report was on members of parliament, ministers and civil servants, and executive nondepartmental public bodies (Cm 2850, 1995). This was followed by a report on further and higher education bodies, grant-maintained schools, training and enterprise councils, and housing associations (Cm 2170, 1996). The report on local government was published in 1997 (Cm 3702). 46 Modern Local Government: In Touch with the People (Cm 4014, 1998: chapter 6); Modernising Local Government: A New Ethical Framework (1998); and Local Leadership, Local Choice (Cm 4298, 1999: chapter 4). 47 The DETR has published a training syllabus prepared in conjunction with the LGA and the RTPI: Training in Planning for Councillors (DETR 1999).



Spatial planning is now taking on a new importance with the privatization of development, the increased status accorded to the land use development plan . . . and the marketing of areas to lever in government grants and inward investment. Spatial planning, as an integrative mechanism for coordinating diverse strategies, sits uneasily with the present method of forward planning revolving around the statutory land use development plan. (Hull 1998: 328)


The framework of planning instruments, and the procedures which are followed in their creation and operation, provide an important starting point for understanding how the planning system works. This chapter and chapter 5 discuss the formal system of town and country planning which is embodied in a huge library of statutes, rules, regulations, directions, policy statements, circulars, and other official documents. However, it is important to appreciate at the outset that the formal system is one thing; the way in which matters work in practice may be very different. The informal planning system operates within the formal structure. It may continue with little modification even when major legislative changes are made; alternatively, there may be significant changes in practice within a stable formal system. Political forces, professional attitudes, and management styles will all affect the ways in which the system operates. It is also necessary to note that much development (in the everyday, rather than the legal, sense of that word) takes place without any help or hindrance from the planning system. Even where the development is clearly related to some action within the statutory

framework for planning, the actual outcome is affected by ‘extraneous’ factors, and it may not be at all clear what effect planning has had on the outcome. It is current government policy to bring much more of the informal operation of planning and development within the statutory planning framework. The emphasis is on plan-led development control. This is intended to reduce the amount of ad hoc planning control, and thus provide a firmer foundation for the resolution of conflicts and investment decisions. Plans are seen as providing a more efficient means of conflict mediation than decision-making on a projectby-project basis, as well as a measure of certainty and coordination for the promotion of investment (Healey 1990). The plan-led system is intended to produce a comprehensive and systematic hierarchy of national and regional guidance, and development plans. It is envisaged that once these plans are in place, they will be a more important factor than their predecessors in land use decision-making. However, high expectations about a new plan framework have not been met. Early optimism is waning in the face of continued problems in establishing comprehensive cover of detailed plans. There is also scepticism about any major shift in


emphasis or impact, with central government continuing to enforce a common approach, and reinforcing the need for planning policy to support business. As we shall see, the fundamental principles of the system remain intact, and recent changes, while superficially significant, may have little effect on the patterns of land use and protection, or on who gains and loses from it. Plans may be more significant (and there are now many more plans), but fundamental questions have been raised about the ability of the system to respond to the complex challenges of sustainable development and economic competitiveness. Europe has been a source of many ideas, and especially important in shifting attention to the strategic level of plan-making and the need for greater sectoral policy integration. For planners who experienced the introduction of the 1947 system or the changes made in 1968, there must be a sense of déjà vu. Many of the questions of those times bear a marked resemblance to the current debate: • What framework will ensure the accountability of decision-makers and safeguard the interests of those affected by planning, yet be expeditious and efficient in operation? • How can the framework provide a measure of certainty and commitment, yet allow for flexibility to cope with changing circumstances, local conditions, and new opportunities? • What objectives should plans pursue, and how will these shape their form and content? • Who should have influence in the planning process, and what should be the respective roles of central and local government and of local communities? These perplexing questions have no easy answers: indeed, by their nature, they have to be readdressed constantly. Acceptable answers rarely have stability since conditions and attitudes change over time. The biggest change in recent years has been the gradual growth of supranational planning, led by the European Union. It is appropriate that a discussion of the UK planning framework should begin with this.



The EU is driven by the goals of economic competitiveness, social cohesion, and balanced development of economic activities among its regions, and, since the adoption of the Amsterdam Treaty in 1999, sustainable development. These objectives have an obvious spatial dimension. The main obstacles to meeting them are the great disparities in wealth, jobs, investment, and access to services across Europe. Indeed, recent evidence suggests that despite the actions of the EU, some disparities (especially between the north and the south) are widening, and that economic and political forces will ensure that they continue to do so. The growing economic and social integration of European nations and regions in the context of globalisation is having a profound affect on spatial development patterns. Significant elements of economic activity together with political and cultural relations are effectively becoming globalised and independent of nation-states. Locational decisions are now more likely to ignore regional and national boundaries. The extent and depth of globalisation are disputed, but it is widely accepted that it has specific implications for changing patterns of spatial development. Of particular note in the European context are increased spatial concentration of economic activity and the central role of global and regional cities; intensified competition between cities across national boundaries; the corresponding polarisation of economic prosperity; and the negative environmental consequences (Sassen 1995). Major development schemes have effects which often go well beyond national borders. In sum, the transboundary interdependencies of spatial development are now much stronger than they once were. These effects are reinforced by Community policies, especially in the fields of regional policy, transport, environment, and agriculture, though their implications for spatial development are not always explicitly




considered in the policy-making process. Spatial planning and state regulation in other spheres play a significant role in addressing these trends, by maximising the competitive position and growth potential of major urban areas while attempting to ensure that, at best, patterns of growth are sustainable and, at worst, the negative impacts are ameliorated.


The EU’s regional policy provides Structural Funds to promote ‘the harmonious, balanced and sustainable development of economic activities, and in particular the development of competitiveness and economic innovation’.1 Allocation of the structural funds from 2000 is divided according to three ‘objectives’, the first two of which have a strong spatial dimension. Objective 1 is to assist designated regions lagging behind in development2 (with less than 75 per cent of the Community average GDP). Objective 2 is targeted at the economic and social conversion of designated areas facing structural difficulties. Objective 3 is to support the adaptation and modernisation of policies and systems of education, training, and employment, and is available to all regions not designated as Objective 1. The Funds account for more than a third of the total Community budget, and will amount to 195 billion euros (about £117 billion at 2000 exchange rates) in the programming period 2000–06; the UK will receive about 10 billion euros.3 About 70 per cent of the structural funds go to Objective 1 areas, with 12 per cent to Objective 2 and 12 per cent to Objective 3; most of the rest are held in reserve or are allocated through Community initiatives. Thus some 82 per cent of structural funds are targeted on specific regions; this is perhaps not surprising since the main intention is to produce a better economic and social balance across the Community. The areas of the UK which fall under these objectives are identified in Figure 4.1. The main beneficiaries in the UK are the Objective 1 regions, which are now Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly,

Merseyside, South Yorkshire, and West Wales and the Valleys. The designations are effective for the seven years to 2006. A transitional assistance mechanism has been established until 2005 to soften the blow of the loss of Community funding for areas previously designated as Objective 1: the Highlands and Islands, and Northern Ireland.4 EU funding is also made available through Community initiatives which are used to tackle specific problems with a European dimension (such as the conversion of defence industries). Previous initiatives have been criticised because of the relatively small funding available relative to the bureaucracy involved in their implementation. In order to concentrate funding and focus on Community objectives more during the 2000–06 programme, the thirteen Community initiatives have been reduced to four. They are INTERREG (5 billion euros (362 million for the UK) on transnational planning; URBAN 700 million euros (117 million) on urban regeneration; LEADER 2 billion euros (106 million) on rural development; and EQUAL 2.8 billion euros (376 million) on employment and training. All are developments of existing initiatives and have already been prominent tools for planners in the UK. They are explained in more detail as relevant in subsequent chapters. The UK government also has its own measures to promote the development of economically disadvantaged regions, although assistance has been reduced considerably since the 1960s. The main instrument remaining is regional selective assistance (RSA), which supports projects to create jobs and increase regional competitiveness. In 1998 the European Commission published guidelines on regional aid to promote comparable and transparent systems across the EU.5 The DTI has subsequently reviewed the boundaries of assisted areas in the UK to bring them into line with the new guidelines. Three tiers of assistance are proposed with different rates of assistance. The first two follow the guidelines and are designated by national government. Tier 1 is designated according to the same criteria as Objective 1 Structural Funds and is thus coterminous


Objective 1 Highlands and Islands

Objective 1

North Eastern Scotland

Phasing-out (till 31/12/2005) Phasing-out (till 31/12/2006) Objective 2

Eastern Scotland

Objective 2 Objective 2 (partly) NUTS 3 boundaries

South Western Scotland

Northern Ireland

Eastern Scotland Northumberland & Tyne & Wear


Tees Valley & Durham North Yorkshire

East Riding & Lancashire W N Lincolnshire Yorkshire Gr Manchester S Yorkshire Merseyside Lincolnshire Cheshire Derbyshire & Nottinghamshire Shropshire & Staffordshire Leicestershire, East W Midlands Rutland & West Wales & East Anglia Wales Northants The Valleys Herefordshire, Worcestershire & Warks Berkshire, Essex Bucks & Oxfordshire Gloucestershire, Inner Wiltshire & Outer North Somerset London London Kent Surrey, Dorset & E& Somerset W Sussex Devon Cornwall & Hampshire & Isles of Scilly Isle of Wight Gibraltar




Source: European Commission Directorate General for regional Policy

Figure 4.1 Areas Eligible for EU Structural Funds and Selective Regional Assistance Source: European Commission Directorate General for Regional Policy



250 Kilometres




with Objective 1. Previously the main recipients of national and European regional assistance were quite different, and the government justified this because of the programmes’ differing objectives. Now this applies only to Tier 2 regions, which in the UK have been built up from ward level (in line with the wishes of many consultees) and differ significantly from the Community Objective 2 regions. In England there are also Enterprise Grant Areas (Tier 3), which may also be designated under devolved powers elsewhere in the UK. Spending of this magnitude has significant impacts on spatial development patterns through investment in infrastructure and changing locational decisions (Williams 1996). This is de facto spatial planning. However, coordination of this investment through explicit territorial planning strategy is another matter, and it is only recently that the EU has taken a direct interest in such planning. All the European institutions have now recognised the importance of European and transboundary spatial development trends. Member states are encouraged to work cooperatively on spatial planning in order to coordinate the spatial impacts of sectoral policies, promote sustainable forms of development, support economic competitiveness, and protect the environment. It is argued that there are important transboundary dimensions to spatial planning which need to be taken up through appropriate institutions and instruments at jurisdictional levels above the nationstate.


There has been a dramatic increase in spatial planning activities that cut across national borders and involve European institutions, which in turn raises questions about the assignment of competences for spatial planning. Until recently there has been no question that competence over spatial planning (in its various forms) rests solely with the member state governments (which in some countries is devolved to subnational governments). But the growing influence of the

supranational and transboundary actions on domestic planning systems and policies challenges that assumption (CEC 1997). Many Community policy sectors impact on town and country planning. In the transport field there is, in part, an exclusive Community competence. Action has concentrated on harmonisation of national transport policies and the Trans-European Networks (TEN) in the areas of transport, telecommunications, and energy infrastructures. In the environment field, the Directives on Environmental Assessment are well known but the Air Quality, Waste, Birds, and Habitats Directives have significant impacts, along with the Fifth Environmental Action Programme. Community agriculture policies through the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and other specific measures such as environmentally sensitive areas (ESAs) have had very significant implications for spatial development patterns and planning in the UK. A recent innovation is Community urban policy, although this is limited so far to promoting pilot projects, studies, and exchange of experience. Coastal management is another important example where the demonstration programme is likely to lead to specific recommendations in relation to planning. New Community legislation and other actions will continue to come forward with impacts on planning in the UK, for example on air quality, landfill, strategic environmental assessment, and renewable energy. In this context it is unsurprising that questions have been raised about the competences of the Community. What should be the role of national, transboundary, and European institutions in spatial planning? Will spatial planning be yet another step in the continuing process of transfer of powers from the member states to the Community? (Tillotson 2000: 52). The extent to which powers will be transferred, including those relating to spatial planning, will depend to a great extent on the application of the principle of subsidiarity, to which the Community is committed (Nadin and Shaw 1999). In essence, subsidiarity means that competences should be located at the most appropriate level and that they should not be located at a higher jurisdictional level than is necessary.


Aside from formal statements in Community legislation, general concerns about the growing powers of the Community during the 1990s drew attention to the idea of subsidiarity and its use in controlling the extension of Community competences. Since then the making of Community legislation has slowed quite dramatically. Instead there is more emphasis on informal actions which come under less scrutiny. This has been the case for spatial planning, where action is through intergovernmental working led by the member states rather than the Commission (see Chapter 3). The EU is empowered to ‘adopt measures concerning town and country planning, land use with the exception of waste management . . . and management of natural resources’ (Article 175), but it is agreed that this would support action in these fields only in so far as they help to achieve measures related to environmental protection, and then only when agreed by unanimity (Nadin and Shaw 1999 33; Bastrup-Birk and Doucet 1997). Nevertheless, ministers responsible for spatial planning in the member states do meet on a sixmonthly cycle and have sanctioned increasing attention to supranational planning by the Committee on Spatial Development. The application of subsidiarity has tended to slow progress on European spatial planning, but its continued growth and influence, like the process of European integration itself, seem inevitable.


It should be emphasised that across Europe spatial planning can be understood in different ways, and the term is often used in a generic sense to describe any land use or physical planning system. Physical planning describes government action to regulate development and land uses in pursuit of agreed objectives. This form of planning is one policy sector within government alongside policy sectors such as transport, agriculture, environmental protection, and regional policy. Land use planning may incorporate mechanisms to coordinate other sector policies. Spatial planning in the European sense is more than this and

is more centrally concerned with the coordination or integration of the spatial dimension of sectoral policies through a territorially based strategy. The strategy acts as a framework for the formulation and implementation of sectoral policy. One of the sectors will be land use planning. In this sense, spatial planning seeks to identify and address the contradictory effects of sectoral policies, and the opportunities for synergy through the territorial strategy. In practice, all planning systems in Europe tend to be land use systems with different degrees of coordination, but mostly weak with considerable sectoral compartmentalisation (Nadin et al. 1997). This applies to the UK.


The first initiative on systematic planning at the European scale came from the German government, which prompted the establishment of a permanent Conference of European Ministers of Aménagement du territoire (CEMAT) through the Council of Europe. The early regional policy of the EU had little spatial content and instead focused on the need to support particular industrial and commercial sectors. Despite a resolution in the European Parliament to draw up a European scheme for spatial planning, progress has been slow. However, the French, German, Danish, and Dutch governments continue to promote supranational planning studies. These have introduced memorable spatial concepts at the European level such as the now infamous ‘blue banana’ (a concept used by the French to describe the area between south-east England and north Italy where growth and investment have been concentrated). The Commission’s first major contribution to the development of European supranational planning came with the publication of Europe 2000: Outlook for the Development of the Community’s Territory (European Commission 1991). This document was intended to provide a European reference for planners working on national or regional planning policies. It was effectively a geography text, raising awareness of European-wide spatial development issues. It adopted




an approach which cut across country borders to identify seven transnational study areas having shared characteristics. (An eighth area was added with the inclusion of the eastern German Länder.) These eight regions, together with adjacent ‘external impact areas’, became the subject of extensive research studies. The initial findings for these study areas are reported in Europe 2000+ Cooperation for European Territorial Development (European Commission 1994). As its title implies, this publication signalled a change in gear on supranational planning, with a clear call for more cooperation between member states. It charts the trends in the physical development of the European territory and, crucially, makes strong assertions about the preferred development patterns for the future. The main emphases of the Europe 2000+ studies are the need to control urban sprawl, a common feature of development predominantly, if not exclusively, in the southern European states; and the strengthening of small and medium-sized towns, especially where this can help in focusing the provision of services in rural areas. Underlying these ideas is the concept of a polycentric urban system, a balanced distribution of urban services across the territory, with more emphasis on development at points along corridors joining the main centres. The rationale is that this will avoid both the congestion problems of very large conurbations and the decline in service provision in rural areas, but it is an idea which largely ignores the dominant centralising tendencies of the market.

Elsewhere, more rigorous protection of areas of environmental importance is promoted, together with further policies aimed at containing the problems of land abandonment in rural areas where traditional agricultural practices are increasingly uneconomic. Urban regeneration and the revitalisation of poor neighbourhoods also has a high priority, but a firm line is being taken on the retention and restoration of the built heritage. Additionally, Europe 2000+ reports on the Trans-European Networks (TEN), which are explained briefly in Chapter 11. Whereas the Commission has concentrated on providing a more coherent analysis of European regional geography, the Committee on Spatial Development has taken the lead in producing the European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP) (CSD 1999) This is the most important initiative on spatial planning at this level, and a unique experiment in supranational planning. The ESDP is intended to promote ‘coherence and complementarity’ of the development strategies of the member states by coordinating the spatial aspects of EC sectoral policies. The task of achieving the necessary consensus among fifteen member states (and many regions within nations) is obviously a difficult one and, needless to say, the statements made are at a very general level. Nevertheless, the final document was endorsed by all governments at their meeting in Potsdam in May 1999. The main contents of the ESDP are shown in Box 4.1.


Purpose The main purposes of the ESDP are • to raise awareness of the significance of spatial development trends for the objectives of the EU; • to provide a common reference framework to guide action on planning and development decisions;

• to promote integration of policy across different sectors of activity, and coordination and complementarity of member state policies through a common strategy; • to provide a framework within which sustainable economic development can take place, and enable the EU to meet its international treaty obligations.


Development Trends at the European Scale The ESDP outlines a wide range of significant spatial development trends for Europe, including: • little change in population but continuing demand for urbanisation resulting in urban sprawl; • rapid change in urban structure and increasing competition between urban centres; • intensification of agriculture, depopulation, and poor service provision in rural areas; • increasing waste and pollution, the ongoing loss of biodiversity; • increasing transport flows, congestion, missing links, bottlenecks, poor accessibility in peripheral areas; • the need to harmonise the infrastructure networks of the accession countries. It notes the lack of coordination of the spatial effects of EU actions through the Structural Funds, the trans-European networks, the CAP, and environmental policy, and argues that sectoral policy could be much better coordinated. Policy Options The ESDP has three general objectives: a more balanced system of towns and cities; parity of access to infrastructure; and prudent management of heritage. The ESDP stops short of promoting specific policies, but makes suggestions of possible approaches – for example: • improving the balance of urban activity between and across regions by avoiding excessive concentration of activity around a particular metropolitan area, and the creation of alternative economic centres;

• promoting the sustainable development of cities through the control of their physical expansion; • development of more environmentally friendly means of access, and conservation of the cultural heritage; • promoting environmental measures in rural areas and the diversification of the rural economy; • giving special attention to the transport needs of land-locked and remote regions; • creation of buffer zones and completion of an environmental network of protected areas; • promoting innovative telecommunications services and applications, particularly in remote regions. Implementation, Action, and Debate The implementation of the ESDP will be through the reorientation of member states’ own strategic policies, and through the use of existing Community instruments and mainstream spending. The significance of the ESDP is that it is focusing debate on the potential of spatial planning to address significant problems in the coordination of public sector policy and the guidance of privatesector development. The ESDP itself raises a number of key questions: • How can spatial planning help to co-ordinate sectoral policy, and how can transnational co-ordination be achieved? • Is there a need for more spatial planning powers for the Commission? • How can national and regional planning laws ‘be adopted to take on board cross-border and transnational planning aspects’, and is there a need for transnational planning instruments?




While the member states and the Commission completed the ESDP, the Community initiative Interreg IIc encouraged local authorities and other public bodies to take part in transnational planning projects. Interreg IIc ran from 1996 to 2000 and was the first Community initiative specifically to promote action on spatial planning. Its objectives were to promote strategies for sustainable development, to foster transnational cooperation within a common planning framework, and to improve the impact of Community policies. A major stream in the programme also promotes cooperative approaches to the problems of flood and drought.6 Interreg IIc has had a major impact in the UK, encouraging local authorities and other bodies to work cooperatively with partners in other countries on planning issues by co-financing projects. Its successor from 2000, Interreg III, will have more than seven times as much funding. The argument for these initiatives follows the logic of the ESDP: more integration of spatial planning policy between nations will contribute to a better balance of development between regions, and thus increase the social and economic cohesion and economic competitiveness of the Community. Funding was made available over the period 1997–99 amounting to 413 million ecu (about £248 million) – a moderate amount in comparison with other Community initiatives. Seven transnational regions were defined within which public bodies could bid for funding to support transnational spatial planning. The UK was involved in three Interreg IIc transnational regions: the Atlantic Area, the North Western Metropolitan Area, and the North Sea Region. These were extensions of the transnational study regions first identified in Europe 2000+, with an original Centre Capitals Region being extended to cover the whole of the UK and Ireland. This produced three overlapping programme areas in the UK (Nadin and Shaw 1998). To be eligible for funding, each project had to involve at least two member states and have an impact in at least three. Examples of successful projects include collaboration on planning issues related to the

high-speed train network in north-west Europe; sharing of experience and strategies on providing access to urban services in rural areas and increasing the vitality of small towns in the North Sea Region; and devising joint strategies for the conversion of fishing infrastructure to ecotourism in the Atlantic Area.7 Three principles are important in the selection of projects. They must have a transnational dimension; there must be a strong multiplying effect giving added value, especially in improving the prospects for achieving planning strategies; and the projects must have the potential to influence other operational programmes so that they make a contribution to transnational planning strategies. In practice, many activities are accepted as ‘spatial planning’ which are not closely related to town and country planning in the UK, such as support for innovation in industry and research. Also, the transnationality criterion has been given a broad interpretation, and the level of actual joint working across national boundaries on many projects is quite low (Nadin and Brown 1999). An overriding theme of the initiative is the need for programmes to be consistent with the aims of the ESDP and to contribute to the further elaboration of transnational planning strategies or frameworks. The operational programme measures and specific projects funded within them will need to contribute to a broader transnational strategy or framework. Two such transnational frameworks or ‘vision statements’ have been produced which affect the UK: the Norvision and the Vision for North West Europe.8 Interreg IIc has dramatically expanded the effort and experience on transnational planning in the UK, and this will be increased further through Interreg III, which is operational until 2006 and places a continued emphasis on balanced development among countries. Interreg III has total funding of nearly 5 billion euros (about £3 billion) and is divided into three strands: (a) promoting cross-border cooperation on joint strategies for sustainable territorial development; (b) transnational cooperation among large groupings of European regions (a development of Interreg IIc); and (c) interregional cooperation and networking. For those authorities and organisations with a history of


transnational collaboration the initiative provides a welcome opportunity to contribute in a bottom-up way to the formulation of transnational planning policy and the ESDP. Where there is less experience, Interreg may offer the potential for capacity-building through education, discussion and the sharing of ideas.


Increasing attention to spatial planning policy at the European level and increasing transboundary cooperation will inevitably affect the planning mechanisms in member states. There are large differences in the way that planning operates across Europe: each member state (and in some cases an individual region) has developed its system in response to local economic and physical development problems arising within particular cultural, legal, and social contexts. There is likely to be a trend towards some degree of convergence of these systems as countries work together. In order to facilitate understanding about the way that spatial planning operates in different member states, and thus to promote more effective cross-border and transnational planning, DG Regio commissioned a Compendium of EU Spatial Planning Systems and Policies. This demonstrates the diversity in planning systems and policies (especially in their operation), but also notes similar trends as the different countries respond to the same macroeconomic forces. There is a distinct trend in much of Europe towards greater flexibility in the operation of regulation. New mechanisms are being introduced to establish more strategic planning frameworks and to allow for decisions which are contrary to the characteristic binding zoning plans. Another common trend is the integration of spatial plans and sectoral spending programmes. The spatial plan is more widely recognised as the coordinative mechanism for sectoral policy and spending. New instruments are being introduced to tackle crossborder issues, and there is increased transnational cooperation between planners dealing with similar issues in different regions. In the UK this is most pronounced in Kent, where the County Council has

worked cooperatively with four other ‘regional authorities’ of France and Belgium in the production of A Vision for EuroRegion (Kent County Council 1995). These impressive developments in supranational planning have not been made without some resistance. The UK government in particular has been less than enthusiastic about ‘universal spatial planning policies’ and has instead emphasised the usefulness of exchanges of experience. There is certainly room for debate on the implications of seeking dispersed but concentrated development, urban containment, and a focus on corridor development. There will be other important issues that have not yet been considered, such as the availability and price of land for development. The proposals may not fully address powerful market forces, especially at a time when the private sector is taking a greater share of investment in virtually all member states. The limitations of the spatial planning systems in bringing about desired objectives of sustainable and balanced development across the community are recognised, and this may eventually lead the Commission to put more emphasis on other policy options for regulating and promoting development such as taxation measures or development incentives. However, there is a general assumption in Brussels (and many member states) that more supranational planning is inevitable and that it is to be welcomed. This sentiment is shared by the transition countries which, while not wishing to reinvent centralised state planning, do want to deal in a coordinated way with their massive problems of environmental degradation and economic decline.9



There is no national land use planning in the UK in the sense that policies or plans are prepared for the whole country. Indeed, one outcome of devolution is




less consistency across the UK. There is, however, a growing amount of ‘national’ land use guidance, and all four systems make use of policy statements at this level. This developed first in Scotland, where it was prompted by the need for a strategy to deal with the unprecedented problems posed by North Sea oil and gas. Since these were considered to be of national importance, the Scottish Office decided to issue guidelines for use by local authorities, especially in relation to coastal development (Gillett 1983). North Sea Oil and Gas Coastal Planning Guidelines was published in 1974, and national planning guidelines (NPGs) on other topics soon followed. These guidelines were intended to fill a gap between relatively inflexible policy expressed in circulars, and general advice that could be ignored (Raemaekers 1995). They had formal status, but they did not tie ministers or local authorities to particular solutions. They did not go so far as to constitute a ‘national plan’, and they were not intended to be comprehensive, but they were locationally specific. The benefits of this system soon became apparent (Diamond 1979). National guidance enabled local authorities to explain the way in which their plans took account of national policies; a higher degree of coordination was possible among the various branches of central government; and national interests in which the Secretary of State needed to be involved could be readily separated from local matters. Later assessments continued to recognise the strengths of the NPGs (Nuffield 1986; Rowan-Robinson and Lloyd 1991). Nevertheless, as the series expanded to cover more topics and non-locationally specific guidance, questions arose about the precise status of NPGs and their overlap with other policy statements (RowanRobinson and Lloyd 1991; Planning Exchange 1989). In response to these concerns, the Scottish Office introduced in 1993 a rationalised structure for national policy and advice through a series of national planning policy guidelines (NPPGs), together with continued use of planning advice notes (PANs) and circulars. The role of NPPGs is ‘to provide statements of government policy on nationally important land use and other planning matters, supported where appropriate by a locational framework’. NPPGs are broader in scope

than their predecessor NPGs, and are intended to provide more comprehensive coverage of topics of national concern. The role of PANs is ‘to identify and disseminate good practice and to provide advice and other information’ (NPPG 1: para. 13). Because of the recognised success of the NPG series, the shift to NPPGs has been watched closely. A review of early experience (Raemaekers et al. 1994) assessed NPPGs as ‘a convincing effort to produce a successor to the pioneering series of the 1970s, fit for changed and complex circumstances’. It also called for greater breadth in topic coverage, and identified particular omissions in the proposed list, especially on major transport infrastructure. Subsequently, guidance and good practice in Scotland has expanded considerably,10 and a further review was conducted (Land Use Consultants 1999), again with generally positive findings. Many detailed recommendations were made for improving the form and content of national guidance, among them the need for a more open and participatory process in both preparation and review. The Minister’s response has been to establish an advisory group made up of a wide range of public-, private-, and community-sector interests to assist in the policy review process.11 The national policy guidance review also argued that national policy could be strengthened through the preparation of a general overarching ‘vision’ for the planning system in Scotland, and the preparation of locationally specific guidance for discrete geographical areas in Scotland. The Executive is now considering, with other interests, the feasibility and value of preparing a national spatial planning perspective for Scotland along the lines of national spatial strategies in other smaller European countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands. In England and Wales, national guidance did not arrive until 1988, although its form and content have provided a model for more recent changes to the Scottish system. National guidance in England is made up of planning policy guidance notes (PPGs) and minerals planning guidance notes (MPGs). As in Scotland, PPGS have taken on the role of expressing national land use and development policy, leaving circulars to be used mainly for elaboration of


procedural matters. They have certainly clarified and extended the national policy framework, but they have tended to be more general than the NPPGs in Scotland (and certainly NPGs), broader in scope, and not at all location specific. PPGs have had a considerable impact on planning practice. An evaluation of their effectiveness concluded that they had ‘assisted greatly in ensuring a more consistent approach to the formulation of development plan policies and the determination of planning applications and appeals’ (Land Use Consultants 1995a: 47). This is because PPGs are important material considerations in development control and have a determining influence on the content of development plans. Conformity between national guidance and plans is ensured through regional office scrutiny of development plans, but the study also found that most professional planners have a high regard for national guidance and welcome the order and consistency in policy that it brings. Councillors are generally more sceptical, which is not surprising, because national guidance constrains their discretion to respond according to their interpretation of local needs. Having successfully introduced more systematic planning policy at national level, the government now has the problem of maintaining consistency and clarity in the series. There have been many calls for more PPGs, while at the same time some concerns have been voiced over perceived contradictions between one PPG and another, and between the series and other government policy statements. One example (from the Land Use Consultants 1995a study) is the concern over the different explanations of the term ‘sustainable development’ in government guidance. The RTPI (1999) has recommended that the policy content of PPGs be separated from general guidance and advice and replaced by an annual statement of national planning policy. The weight of recently issued guidance notes suggests that there is certainly some scope for rationalisation. At the same time there is also a need for more specific guidance on some topics so as to reduce the effort needed to debate national policy at inquiries on development projects of national significance.12 This would require some aspects of national policy guidance to be much more locationally specific (currently, only

minerals guidance mentions locations). To some extent the enhanced regional planning guidance will meet this need. Another approach, as in Scotland, would be a ‘national spatial planning perspective’, and the RTPI has investigated the feasibility of such a perspective for the whole of the UK prior to making a proposal to government.13 In Wales the publication of national guidance was, until 1995, mostly shared with England through joint publications of the DoE and the Welsh Office. On occasion, separate advice was thought necessary to reflect distinctive Welsh conditions (for example on land for housing and on strategic planning), but these followed the English version quite closely. By 1995 the Welsh Office had decided to go its own way, and published two draft planning policy guidance notes intended to replace PPGs originally shared with the DoE; final versions were published in 1996 (since revised). The first deals solely with the new unitary development plan structure following local government reorganisation. The second summarises policy guidance for a long list of topics covered previously in separate notes. The effect was to reduce the amount of guidance considerably. This was criticised by the RTPI because it ‘significantly dilutes essential policy advice, lacks coherence and comprehensiveness, and will provide Wales with inferior guidance to that available to local planning authorities in England’. Technical Advice Notes (TANs) have been published, filling in much of the detail lost, but concerns centre on the problem of lack of strategic direction, especially in the light of the reforms to the development plan system in response to the reorganisation of local government. However, one interesting innovation is the inclusion of a strategic diagram for the whole of Wales, illustrating areas of growth and protection, and main communication routes (although it effectively states little more than the obvious). Northern Ireland lagged behind in the production of ‘national’ guidance until the mid-1990s. Planning officers in the Province make use of PPGs and NPPGs to keep in touch with policy developments. Since 1995 national planning policy statements (PPSs) have been published by the Planning Service for Northern




Ireland.14 The statements are similar in form to guidance in the rest of the UK but reflect the special planning and political circumstances in Northern Ireland – not least the centralisation of planning in the Planning Service. It may be that the strong competence of central government is responsible for the definitive nature of some policies, for example that ‘there is no justifiable need for any new regional outof-town shopping centres’ (PPS 1, para. 35). The Planning Service also publishes development control advice notes (DCANs) providing more detailed guidance on good practice. An explicit policy framework from national government is especially important in Northern Ireland because it is national government which makes almost all decisions. The PPSs must conform to the Regional Strategic Planning Framework for Northern Ireland being prepared by the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland, which is discussed below. However, less progress has been made here in involving a wider range of interests in the production of national planning policy. In whatever form, guidance issued by national government carries considerable weight and thus the content of that guidance is discussed in some detail in subsequent chapters. But though local planning authorities are required to have regard to guidance, they are not bound by it. Indeed, other material considerations may be of greater importance in particular cases, and planning authorities may wish to take a different line, so long as they can give adequate reasons. Moreover, the advice in one guidance note may contradict that in another, perhaps as a result of piecemeal revisions at different times. Nevertheless, guidance notes command a great deal of respect and are closely followed in development control and development planning. They exert significant influence in planning policy and decisions, and are quoted profusely in decision-making, especially at inquiries. Some government policy is still to be found in circulars and also, from time to time, in ministerial statements. Major changes in policy are often published in White Papers. All these documents can be regarded as material considerations in planning, and thus central government has an array of instruments in which

national policy can be expressed. Indeed, the result can be confusing, if not actually contradictory. The Environment, Planning and Regional Affairs Committee Report on the Planning Inspectorate noted the difficulties this presented for planning inspectors. There are likely to be important further developments in this field, including more locationally specific ‘spatial guidance’ both for particular sectors and for the national territories as a whole. A critical task will be the incorporation of other sectoral policy-makers and operators into the policy-making process, such that there is wider ownership of national spatial policy among government departments, agencies, and service providers.


In addition to the strengthening of national guidance, the government has taken steps in two stages towards expanding the role of regional planning guidance in England. The first set of changes began with the 1986 Consultation Paper The Future of Development Plans, which noted the progress that had been made in some regions (such as East Anglia, the West Midlands, and the South-East) by local authorities cooperating voluntarily to produce regional strategies. Official encouragement was given in this Consultation Paper to the formation of other regional groupings. No precise procedures were suggested, and a warning was given that such arrangements would not represent a formalised regional structure, nor would they be a return to the type of large-scale regional planning which was attempted in the 1960s and 70s. Regional planning conferences of local authorities were invited to prepare draft guidance looking ahead twenty years or more, which the Secretary of State considers before publishing final guidance. (Initially, regional guidance was published in the PPG series, but since 1989 there has been a separate RPG series.) The 1989 White Paper recommended that business organisations and other bodies should be involved as well as local authorities, and also required the joint bodies to detail the results of consultations and the response. Conservation and agricultural interests were later


added to this list. Strategic guidance produced by the metropolitan counties as part of the unitary development planning process was gradually merged with the new regional guidance, except in London, where separate strategic planning guidance remains. The recognition by government of the need for more strategic planning was welcomed by all sides, but the early efforts came in for considerable criticism. An indication of the varying style and quality is given in the Town Planning Review symposium (Minay 1992). From this it appears that much of the guidance has been no more than a further detailing of national guidance and restatement of current policies. For example, the Regional Strategic Guidance for East Anglia is described as ‘bland and incremental . . . it mostly describes existing situations and trends’. Most of the others are described in a similar tone, though Roberts (1996) gives a more positive appraisal. A later review by Baker (1998) notes increasing specificity of regional guidance through the use of subregional divisions; first signs of attempts to integrate a wider range of sectoral policy interests (particularly transport and economic development); and growing institutional capacity for planning at the regional level. The second stage of strengthening regional planning came from 1997. The new Labour government’s commitment to devolution and regionalisation at last provided the right context for progress to be made on long-standing and widely held views on the need to further strengthen the regional dimension to planning.15 In February 1998 a ministerial statement was published, entitled Modernising Planning, together with a consultation paper, The Future of Regional Planning Guidance. One of the main themes of the ministerial statement was the need to strengthen strategic planning capabilities at the regional and subregional levels, reflecting both the need to respond to developments at the European level and the government’s desire to decentralise to the regions. The consultation paper accepted the validity of criticisms of regional planning guidance in not providing a real strategic direction for the regions and not having the confidence of regional stakeholders. Proposals were made for strengthening regional

guidance by extending its scope and specificity beyond land use, by making the process for its production more inclusive and transparent; and by giving the regional bodies the main competence for its production. The proposals stopped short of recommending that regional guidance should become a statutory document on the basis that this would require primary legislation. Local authorities were encouraged to begin to take the principles of the consultation document forward prior to the publication of formal guidance. A Draft Planning Policy Guidance Note 11: Regional Planning was published in March 1999 and a final version with much the same content in 2000. European developments and practice in other countries have had a considerable influence on the new approach to regional planning. The new RPG is intended to provide a regional spatial strategy for the region; that is, to provide a broad development strategy for the region over a fifteen to twenty year period and identify the scale and distribution of provision for new housing and priorities for the environment, transport, infrastructure, economic development, agriculture, minerals and waste treatment and disposal. . . . By virtue of being a spatial strategy it also informs other strategies and programmes, in particular: . . . the regional context for the preparation of local transport plans; and it should also provide the longer term planning framework of the Regional Development Agencies’ regional economic strategies. (PPG 11 (2000), para. 1.03)

But the government also urges caution, and necessarily so, since the approach to developing regional spatial planning is effectively to widen the remit of one sectoral policy instrument. The central purpose of RPG is still to provide a regional framework for the preparation of local authority development plans (para. 1.03). The impact of RPG on other sectoral policy will rely heavily on indirect influence. The new approach recognises the need to involve regional stakeholders more fully in the process, notably the regional development agencies (RDAs); other public bodies in such sectors as health and education; the Environment Agency; business and commercial organisations, including transport operators and utility companies; and voluntary bodies. But the extent to which these interests, which have hitherto shown little




interest in regional spatial planning, can be successfully incorporated into the process is yet to be seen. The proposals for wider scope and a more open process may assist. The proposals for the content and procedure are summarised in Figure 4.2. The principal procedural innovation follows an experiment in the West Midlands where the draft advice to the Secretary of State was subject to public examination in a similar way to that conducted for structure plans. The examination in public now becomes a requirement for all RPGs. A draft strategy will be ‘tested’ at an examination before an independent panel with invited participants. The panel’s report will then form an input to the Secretary of State’s consideration of the guidance before a draft RPG is published. After experiencing the examination of the South-East’s RPG. Crow (2000) concluded that it can make a positive contribution – although the final decision still rests with the Secretary of State. Two other innovations are the requirement for sustainability appraisal and the identification of clear targets and performance indicators. The DETR commissioned research on both matters which provides the basis for good practice guidance for the RPBs.16 The ECOTEC study on targets and indicators provides a fascinating review of the haphazard proliferation of targets and indicators (and might usefully be replicated for development plans). Despite the rapid increase in their use, there is little systematic consideration of indicators or targets in relation to the policy objectives; rather, they mostly represent general aspirations for the region, and the constraints of data availability. Nevertheless, considerable progress is being made, and the government’s view is that ‘systematic use is made of quantified regional and subregional targets that provide the benchmark for RPG success’.17 The main responsibility for preparation shifts from central government to the regional planning bodies (RPBs), although in close liaison with the government offices. Rather than preparing advice for the Secretary of State, the RPBs will be producing a draft of the final guidance. Since there are no regional authorities, the final RPG will still be issued by the Secretary of State, but there is a clear intention to provide as much

discretion to the regional bodies as possible, so long as they work within the parameters of national planning policy. What constitutes the RPB is left to the local authorities within each region. In some cases the emerging regional chambers may take on the regional planning role; in others the lead may remain with the conferences of planning authorities. The capacity to undertake the regional planning function varies considerably across the country, but after decades of neglect of the regional planning function, it is generally weak and ‘dependent upon local government officers coming together and carrying out the necessary studies on the back of their mainstream jobs’ (Kitchen 1999a: 12).18 Not only do technical skills and resources need expanding, but the regional conferences (and RPG itself) have not had a strong influence on other sectors. In some cases, it has had little influence on the actions of its own local planning authority partners, which is the explanation for the weak common denominator style of some documents. The expectations that an enhanced regional planning guidance system can command the commitment of a whole range of regional and national actors seems ambitious in the face of the dominance of a few key corporate stakeholders (Vigar and Healey 1999). There is a need for a system which obliges all the key regional interests to work cooperatively on strategic spatial planning process and to sign up to its conclusions. Though the new arrangements move in this direction, they are still firmly rooted in the land use planning sector with little formal control over other sectors. The relationship between the RPG and RDA strategies will be critical. In this approach much emphasis is given to cooperative working between the regional bodies to ensure complementarity of the strategies. The RDA strategies ‘will need to operate within and alongside the long term spatial context for the region provided by RPG’ (PPG 11: para. 4.5). The RPB should draw on the RDA’s work in identifying the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to the regional economy, in order to identify the areas where land needs to be released for economic development or where policies targeted at facilitating regeneration need to be focussed. (PPG 11: para. 4.4)


Figure 4.2 The Procedure for the Preparation of Regional Planning Guidance in England




Kitchen asks: what will happen when push comes to shove, as at some time in most regions it will? Will the RPG with its environmental and sustainability appraisals have sufficient teeth to make a real difference to what RDAs actually do?’ (1999a: 13). The relationships between the RPBs and RDAs are to be monitored by the government offices, and there is no doubt that there will need to be considerable work to avoid inconsistency and contradiction. Until the 1980s, Scotland had a tier of regional reports which provided a corporate policy statement for the regions as well as a framework for the preparation of structure plans. There were few formal procedures governing their preparation, and they did not require central government approval, but were simply published with the Secretary of State’s observations. They were much admired, but as the statutory development plan framework was put into place, they became regarded as redundant.19 In Wales a series of guideline documents was prepared as Strategic Planning Guidance in Wales by the Welsh Office. The documents were intended to ‘consolidate and re-present the wide range of available strategic guidance material in a consistent and accessible form’ and particularly to provide a framework for the preparation of structure plans. Given the changes to a unitary structure in Wales, strategic guidance is perhaps more important than ever, but neither of the two Welsh planning guidance documents refers to it. Innovation in regional planning is perhaps most evident in Northern Ireland. The first regional plan in Northern Ireland was the Belfast Regional Plan published in 1964 (the Matthew Plan). This proposed the stopline, a system of radial motorways, and a major new town, Craigavon, modelled on the English experience (Hendry 1989). Like its counterparts in England, the plan was overtaken by the effects of dramatic economic recession. The subsequent Regional Physical Development Strategy 1975–85 sought to concentrate growth in the Province to twenty-six key centres, but the depressing effects on other areas were widely challenged (Blackman 1985). A new rural planning policy published in 1978 took a much more relaxed approach to development in three-quarters of the rural

territory, which led to extensive development of single houses in the countryside and ribbon development.20 This led to a reappraisal of the need for regional planning and the publication of A Planning Strategy for Rural Northern Ireland in 1993. This is unlike any other UK regional planning document in that it includes both strategic objectives for the overall development of the territory and detailed development control policies. This could only be a product of a system where central government has set the strategy, made local plans, and undertaken development control. The Strategy introduces new restrictions on development in the countryside, while introducing the novel designation of ‘dispersed rural communities’. The Belfast Agreement of 1998 gave added impetus to the increasing activity on regional planning in Ulster. In the same year the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland launched Shaping Our Future: Towards a Strategy for the Development of the Region – Draft Regional Strategic Framework for Northern Ireland. The strategy is a considerable step forward in strategic planning in Northern Ireland, and, interestingly, bears close comparison with new regional planning guidance in the Republic of Ireland.




The main instrument of land use control in Britain during the first half of the twentieth century was the planning scheme. This was, in effect, development control by zoning. As discussed in Chapter 2, zoning was replaced in 1947 by a markedly different system which attempts to strike a distinctive balance between flexibility and commitment. The approach is, in many important ways, the same in the 1990s as it was in the 1950s. It is fundamentally a discretionary system in which decisions on particular development proposals are made as they arise, against the policy background of a generalised plan. The 1947 Act defined a development plan as ‘a plan indicating the manner in which


a local planning authority propose that land in their area should be used’. Unlike the prewar operative scheme, the development plan did not of itself imply that permission would be granted for particular developments simply because they appeared to be in conformity with the plan. Though developers were able to find out from the plan where particular uses were likely to be permitted, their specific proposals had to be considered by the local planning authority. When considering applications, the authority was expressly directed to ‘have regard to the provisions of the development plan’, but the plan was not binding, and indeed, authorities were instructed to have regard not only to the development plan but also to any other material considerations’. Furthermore, in granting permission to develop, local authorities could impose ‘such conditions as they think fit’. However, though the local planning authorities had considerable latitude in deciding whether to approve applications, it was intended that the planning objectives for their areas should be clearly set out in development plans. The development plan consisted of a report of survey, providing background to the plan but having no statutory effect; a written statement, providing a short summary of the main proposals but no explanation or argument to support them; and detailed maps at various scales. The maps indicated development proposals for a twenty-year period and the intended pattern of land use, together with a programme of the stages by which the proposed development would be realised. The plans were approved by the minister (with or without modifications) following a public inquiry. Initially a three-year target was set for submission of the plans, but only twenty-two authorities met this, and it was not until the early 1960s that they were all approved. By this time the requirement to review plans on a five-yearly cycle had brought forward amendments, many taking the form of more detailed plans for particular areas. These had to follow the same process of inquiry and ministerial approval as the original plans, and many authorities were still engaged on the first review in the mid-1960s. Furthermore, although the system of development control guided by development plans operated fairly well without significant

change for two decades, l947-style plans did not prove flexible in the face of the very different conditions of the 1960s. The statutory requirement for determining and mapping land use led inexorably towards greater detail and precision in the plans and more cumbersome procedures. The quality of planning suffered, and delays were beginning to bring the system into disrepute. As a result, public acceptability, which is the basic foundation of any planning system, was jeopardised. It was within this context that the Planning Advisory Group (PAG) was set up in May 1964 to review the broad structure of the planning system and, in particular, development plans. In its report, published in 1965, PAG proposed a further fundamental change to the planning system, one which would distinguish between strategic issues and detailed tactical issues. Only plans dealing with the former would be submitted for ministerial approval: the latter would be for local decisions within the framework of the approved policy. Legislative effect to the PAG proposals was given in 1968 (for England and Wales) and 1969 (for Scotland), creating a two-tier system of structure plans and local plans.


The essential features of the 1968 system are still in place today, though there have been numerous incremental changes. Structure plans provide a strategic tier of development plan and, until 1985, were prepared for the whole of England by county councils (and the two national park boards). They were originally subject to the Secretary of State’s approval, but since 1992 have been adopted by the planning authority itself. They consist of a written statement and key diagram setting out the broad land use policies (but not detailed land allocations) for the area, measures for the improvement of the physical environment, and policies for the management of traffic. Accompanying these is an explanatory memorandum in which the authority summarises the reasons which justify the policies and general proposals in the plan.




The central department’s view of the functions of the structure plan has been fairly consistent but views about its scope – the range of topics which should be considered – have varied considerably. The initial conception was that they should be wide-ranging, but the government narrowed the range of competence of structure plans over the years, only to widen it again in 1999. The content of plans is discussed further below. The functions, as now set out in PPG 12 (1999), are ‘to state in broad terms the general policies and proposals of strategic importance for the development and use of land in the area, taking into account national and regional policies’ (para. 3.7). The structure plan should indicate the scale of provision including figures for housing and other land uses, and the broad location of major growth areas and preferred locations for specific types of major development . . . [and] the general location of individual major and strategic developments likely to have a significant effect on the plan are; and . . . broad areas of restraint on development. (ibid., para. 3.8)

The structure plan makes use of a key diagram rather than map, thus avoiding the identification of particular parcels of land. This limits debate to the general questions of strategic location rather than the use of specific sites. General land use policies can thus be determined before detailed land use allocations are made, albeit not always to the liking of those affected by later, more detailed plans. In practice, counties formulated their ‘policy and general proposals’ in greater detail than anticipated by government, including quite detailed land allocations and development control policies in some cases. An argument in favour of more detail was that few local plans were being produced, but more detail also gave the county council more control over the implementation of policy. Local plans provide detailed guidance on land use. They consist of a written statement, a proposals map, and other appropriate illustrations. The written statement sets out the policies for the control of development, including the allocation of land for specific purposes. The proposals map must be on an Ordnance Survey base, thus showing the effects of the plan to precise and identifiable boundaries.

Under the 1968 system there were three types of local plan: general plans (referred to as ‘district plans’ before 1982), action area plans, and subject plans. General local plans were prepared ‘where the strategic policies in the structure plan need to be developed in more detail’.21 Action area local plans dealt with areas intended for comprehensive development; and subject plans dealt with specific planning issues over an extensive area, typically minerals and green belt, but many others such as caravans and pig farming. Local plans have never been subject to approval by the Secretary of State, but are adopted by the planning authority (although the Secretary of State has rarelyused powers to call in plans and to require modifications). The original rationale for this was that a local plan would be prepared within the framework of a structure plan; and since structure plans would be approved by the Secretary of State, local authorities could safely be left to the detailed elaboration of local plans. This went to the very kernel of the philosophy underlying the 1968 legislation, namely that central government should be concerned only with strategic issues, and that local matters should be the clear responsibility of local authorities. The Secretary of State, having approved the structure plan, could safely leave the detailed elaboration of its policies at the local level to the (same) local authority without the necessity of further approval. This division of plan-making functions was predicated on the creation of unitary planning authorities responsible for preparing both the structure and local plan. But the 1972 Local Government Act established two main types of local authority in England and Wales, and divided planning functions between them. The two levels of local government do not share the same views about planning policy across much of the country, which has exacerbated conflict in the system. For some, this has always been a fundamental weakness of the system, leading to calls for the abolition of structure plans, but for others it has been a useful separation of powers, with the conflict usefully exposing critical issues in planning. Two mechanisms were introduced to promote effective cooperation in the planning field and to minimise delay, dispute and duplication: the development plan scheme


(later the local plan scheme) and the certificate of conformity.22


There has probably never been a time when development plans, of whatever vintage, did not have their critics – and many of the criticisms have never changed. A decade after the start of the new system, Bruton (1980: 135) summarised the problems as ‘delay and lack of flexibility; an over-concentration on detail; [and] ambiguity in regard to wider policy issues’. The same is probably true today. Plans were very slow in coming forward to statutory approval and adoption.23 The first structure plan cycle took fourteen years to complete: over the years 1981 to 1985 the time taken from the submission of structure plans to their final approval averaged twentyeight months. One of the main reasons for this long delay was that many of the written statements and explanatory memoranda were very lengthy: in the first round, several contained more than 100,000 words. They also contained too many policies – typically more than a hundred, many of which the DoE considered to be irrelevant to structure plans: ‘building design standards, storage of cycles, the costs of waste collection, the development of cooperatives, racial or sexual disadvantage, standards of highway maintenance, parking charges, the location of picnic sites and so-called nuclear-free zones’. The disputes and delays over structure plan approval also held back the adoption of local plans; indeed, the first local plan was not adopted until 1975. However, the rate of deposit and adoption increased sharply after the initial round of structure plans was mostly completed and by March 1987, 495 local plans had been adopted in England and Wales (Coon 1988). Unfortunately, many of the plans were out of date by the time their processing was complete. This is not surprising when it is noted that the average time taken to prepare and adopt a local plan was about five years. During the 1970s and 1980s non-statutory planning documents (‘informal policy’) proliferated.

At one time these informal policy documents outnumbered statutory plans by about ten to one (Bruton and Nicholson 1985). They took many forms, from single-issue or area policy notes to comprehensive but informal plans. Central government has consistently pressed for the elimination of non-statutory policy, except where it might be legitimately described as supplementary planning guidance (SPG) which is properly related to an adopted plan and subject to consultation. The value of SPG is that it avoids excessive detail in the statutory plan, and for this reason its use is supported by government, but a clear distinction is drawn between SPG and ‘bottom-drawer’ plans and policies which seek to avoid public scrutiny. The experience of structure planning was disappointing, and there was at this time growing confusion about its role. Certainly it had not lived up to the expectations of the PAG report. Though it undoubtedly provided a forum for debate about strategy, it did not provide the firm lead that was promised. The uncertainties and complications of structure planning in practice carried over to local planning and contributed, in some areas, to a professional culture that was at best indifferent to statutory plans (Shelton 1991). There were more positive attitudes in other areas. Where the stakes involved in development applications were high, as in London and counties such as Hertfordshire (where full statutory plan cover was completed during the 1980s), statutory plan-making was vigorously pursued. Also, despite turbulent economic conditions, the plans proved to be reasonably robust and effective in implementing policy and defending council decisions at appeal. Considerable research was carried out during the 1980s and 1990s on the preparation and operation of development plans. The main references are given in the ‘further reading’ section at the end of this chapter. Healey et al. (1988) concluded that plans had proved to be effective in guiding and supporting decisions, and in providing a framework for the protection of land. They were particularly useful in shaping private-sector decisions, especially in the urban fringe. Conversely, the difficulty encountered in controlling public-sector investment in housing, economic development, inner-city policy, and infrastructure




provision was shown to be an impediment to effective implementation of strategy. The research team argued that this criticism was not one that plans alone could address. In similar vein, Carter et al. (1991) highlighted the ‘considerable confusion’ about the relationship between development plans and other plans for housing (HIPs) and transport (TPPs). Davies et al. (1986a, b, c) concluded that plans might play only a small part in guiding development control decisions overall, but were much more important when a case went to appeal – what they termed the ‘pinch points’ of the system. They suggested that this reflected the system’s chief virtue: its ability to enable a sensitive response to local conditions. It was recommended that the DoE should encourage local authorities to provide better written policy cover; to reduce its complexity by incorporating as much as possible in statutory plans; and to facilitate more speedy adoption.24 A big contribution to the failure to produce plans has been the vacillating and confused attitude of central government. The status of statutory plans reached a low point in 1985 when the White Paper Lifting the Burden denigrated both structure and local plans, and criticised the procedures for preparing plans as ‘too slow and cumbersome’. More flexibility was also called for – somewhat at odds with previous advice, which had sought to reduce administrative discretion in the system via a planning framework that offered more certainty, clarity, and consistency to privatesector investors (Healey 1986).


The Thatcher government’s precipitate decision to abolish the GLC and the MCCs forced hasty action concerning the planning system in these areas. This was simple in the extreme: London boroughs and the metropolitan districts became ‘unitary’ planning authorities. Thus, in precisely those parts of the country where there is a particular need for a two-tier planning system, it was lost.

Initially the government had proposed that the borough and district authorities should have responsibility for both structure and local plans, but later it was decided that this would be too cumbersome. Instead, a new unitary development plan was proposed, together with a joint planning committee for Greater London (a role which was undertaken by the London Planning Advisory Committee). The intention was that after consultations, the Secretary of State would provide strategic guidance to assist in the preparation of the unitary development plans. Little advice was given to the districts about their input to the development of strategic guidance except that it was to be produced on a cooperative and voluntary basis by the districts themselves.25 Unitary development plans (UDPs) are in two parts: Part I is analogous to the structure plan in nonmetropolitan areas. It consists of a written statement of the authority’s general policies for the development and use of land in their area. The broad development and land-use strategy of Part I provides a framework for the authority’s detailed proposals in Part II, which is analogous to the local plan in non-metropolitan areas. Part II contains a written statement of the authority’s proposals for the development and use of land; a map showing these proposals on an Ordnance Survey base; and a reasoned justification of the general policies in Part II of the plan. The proposals in Part II of a plan must be in general conformity with the policies in Part I. Action areas (see paragraph 6 above) may also be designated in Part II of a UDP (PPG 12 (1999) Annex A para. 7).

The different parts of a UDP should be presented as one document, and they have a ten-year horizon. The UDP is adopted by the district council, and is not subject to the approval of the Secretary of State (although reserve powers of central intervention have been maintained). There was a good deal of initial scepticism about these new arrangements, though they are more closely allied to the 1965 thinking of PAG than the system that was then put into place. There were particular concerns about the future of strategic thinking in the metropolitan areas, difficulties of cooperation between districts, and problems of participation and coping with the statutory right to objection in plans which embrace such large areas. For the districts themselves,


many of these worries have proved unfounded. It has been possible to accommodate policy and political differences among districts, but this has been very much on a lowest common denominator level (Hill 1991; Williams et al. 1992). It has also proved possible, perhaps even desirable, to produce the strategy and detail concurrently. However, there remain serious concerns about the extent to which the public, interest groups, and even some professionals can engage effectively in the process. There have also been considerable delays in some metropolitan districts, notably Leeds and Bradford, where very detailed plans were produced in particularly contentious circumstances, generating great conflict and many thousands of objections. The provisions for the London Mayor implemented in 2000 also include a requirement for the creation of a spatial planning strategy for London which will supersede the strategic guidance for London, although at the time of writing, the arrangements had yet to be finalised.


As early as 1977, proposals were being made for a review of the 1968 system but, at this time, review was considered premature since only twenty-four structure plans had been submitted, and only seven had been approved. By 1985, prompted by the concern for ‘freeing’ enterprise from unnecessary restraints, the White Paper Lifting the Burden announced that there were to be changes in the development plan framework. The following year a consultation paper was published proposing the abolition of structure plans in England and Wales (but not in Scotland, where they had ‘not in general given rise to the same problems as have been experienced south of the Border’) and their replacement by statements of county planning policies on a limited range of issues (to be specified by the Secretary of State) which would not form part of the statutory development plan; a wider coverage of regional and subregional planning guidance to be issued by the Secretary of State after consultations and public comment; and the introduction of single-tier

district development plans covering the whole of each district. The context for preparation and discussion of these proposals centred on the growing dissatisfaction of many different interests about the making of many ad hoc and apparently inconsistent decisions by both the Secretary of State and local authorities. The lobby for change created some unusual bedfellows (both the development and the conservation lobbies). The common concern was for more certainty in the system and a reduction in the growing number of speculative applications. There was also some dissatisfaction among government supporters about decisions taken centrally which went against local (often Conservative) opinion. Local authorities were concerned that more of their decisions were being overruled, and complained at the lack of clarity in central policy. By comparison, matters looked better in Scotland and in the emerging system in the metropolitan counties. Many of the 500 responses to the Consultation Paper argued very strongly against the proposed abolition of structure plans. In November 1988, PPG 12 was published urging local authorities to extend statutory plan coverage, normally by district-wide plans, and to replace non-statutory policy, which it described as ‘insufficient and weak’. Strategic green belt boundaries were singled out as requiring further specification in detailed local plans. In return, the government offered an enhanced status for plans. Early in 1989, virtually the same set of proposals were published in the White Paper The Future of Development Plans, with the addition of a mandatory provision for all counties to prepare minerals development plans. County councils were urged to press ahead with the revision and updating of structure plans and to cooperate on the elaboration of regional guidance. Considerable lobbying by major pressure groups had been successful in bringing about a reprieve for structure plans. Counties were encouraged to review their structure plans and to take them forward to 2006, with the promise that the delays after submission would be reduced. The counties, for their part, were to ensure that plans were less bulky and concentrated on strategic issues. Shortly afterwards the government announced an end to the requirement that the




Secretary of State must themself approve all structure plans and alterations. During debate on the Planning and Compensation Bill that followed, provisions were added to further increase the status of the statutory plans in development control.


The Planning and Compensation Act 1991 made four major changes to the planning framework. The first made the plan the primary consideration in development control. In commending the amendment (now section 54A of the 1990 Act), Sir George Young coined a phrase in saying that ‘the approach shall leave no doubt about the importance of the plan-led system’. Two other changes involved making the adoption of district-wide local plans mandatory, and abolishing the requirement for central approval of structure plans. Central government has retained its powers of intervention, and the structure plan is still subject to an examination in public. Finally, the Act introduced a mandatory requirement for counties to produce minerals plans and waste plans for the whole of their areas. Small-area local plans and subject plans were abandoned except for minerals and waste, although local authorities may still designate action areas (Figure 4.3). In the first part of the 1990s it seemed that the framework of local planning policy in England and Wales was to become more coherent. Given that most local authorities had little coverage of statutory plans (but many other informal policy documents) and others had produced a mix of interlinked subject and small-area-based policy documents, those investigating policy did so with not a little uncertainty. Now the prospect was for a much clearer system. Those needing to know about planning policy would make reference to the structure plan, the district-wide local plan, and the minerals and waste plans, with some certainty that they would exist. Local government reorganisation introduced considerable extra complexity in England, as illustrated in Figure 4.4. Where the two-tier system remains, the

planning framework is not affected: counties prepare the structure plan and waste and minerals plans (or one plan for both topics), and districts prepare the districtwide local plan. Where new unitary authorities are created, they are effectively county councils, but in almost all cases prepare joint structure plans with the neighbouring county councils. The joint arrangements are summarised in Table 4.1. The exceptions are Halton, Warrington, Herefordshire, the Isle of Wight, and Thurrock, which are to prepare unitary development plans (as in the metropolitan districts). All the other unitary authorities will prepare their own district wide local plans. The county will continue to prepare waste and minerals plans (or one plan for both topics) for its area. The metropolitan districts are of course, unaffected by local government reorganisation and will continue with their unitary development plans.


The formal change to a discretionary system of development plans and control did not come to Northern Ireland until 1972. Prior to this, the system was much the same as for the rest of Britain before 1947, with local authorities able to prepare planning schemes. Practice was similar also in that very little progress was made on the preparation and approval of such schemes, and a system of interim development control operated. The 1972 Order introduced the development plan, with similar status to those in the rest of the UK. There are three types of development plan (area, local, and subject plans) which are produced and adopted by the DoENI (shown in Figure 4.5). Area plans, which can cover the whole or a substantial part of one or more district council areas, are the main reference for development control, and include both strategic and detailed policies. The provisions of the 1991 Act, including those on the primacy of the development plan, do not yet apply in Northern Ireland, although in 1999 the Northern Ireland Office consulted on proposals to make the plan the primary consideration. This was in response

Figure 4.3 The Framework of Planning Instruments in the UK (Based on England)

Figure 4.4 The Planning Policy Framework in England

Joint structure plan: Bristol UA, North Somerset UA (formerly Woodspring), Bath and NE Somerset UA (formerly Wansdyke and Bath), South Gloucestershire UA (formerly Northavon and Kingswood) Joint structure plan: Luton, Bedfordshire County Council Joint structure plan: Bracknell Forest UA , Newbury UA, Reading UA, Slough UA, Windsor and Maidenhead UA, Wokingham UA Joint structure plan: Milton Keynes UA, Buckinghamshire County Council Joint structure plan: Peterborough UA, Cambridgeshire County Council UDPs for the UAs and a structure plan for the remainder Halton UA , Warrington UA, Cheshire County Council Joint structure plan also with Darlington UA, Middlesbrough UA, Hartlepool UA, Redcar and Cleveland UA (formerly Langbaurgh-on-Tees), Stockton on Tees UA Structure plan Joint structure plan: Cumbria CC, Lake District NPA

Avon County Council

Bedfordshire County Council

Berkshire County Council

Buckinghamshire County Council

Cambridgeshire County Council

Cheshire County Council

Cleveland County Council



Joint structure plan: Bournemouth UA, Poole UA, Dorset County Council Darlington UA – joint structure plan with former Cleveland LAs structure plan for Durham County Council Joint structure plan: Brighton and Hove UA, East Sussex County Council UDP for Thurrock. Joint structure plan; Southend UA, Essex County Council

Dorset County Council

Durham County Council

East Sussex County Council

Essex County Council

Hereford and Worcester

Structure plan for Worcestershire County Council UDP for Herefordshire

Hampshire County Council Joint structure plan: Portsmouth UA, Southampton UA, Hampshire County Council

Joint structure plan: Plymouth UA, Torbay UA, Devon County Council UA

Devon County Council

Derbyshire County Council Joint structure plan: Derby City UA, Derbyshire County Council

New arrangements

Previous structure plan authority

Table 4.1 Structure Plan Areas in England

Joint structure plan: Kingston upon Hull UA, East Riding UA (formerly East Yorks, Beverley, Holderness and part of Boothferry) Joint structure plan: North East Lincolnshire UA (formerly Cleethorpes and Great Grimsby), North Lincolnshire UA (formerly Glandford, Scunthorpe and part of Boothferry) UDP: Isle of Wight UA Joint structure plan: Medway Towns UA (formerly Rochester and Gillingham), Kent County Council

Humberside County Council

Isle of Wight

Kent County Council

Joint structure plan: York UA, North Yorkshire County Council, Yorkshire Dales NPA Structure plan Joint structure plan: Nottingham City UA , Nottinghamshire County Council Structure plan Joint structure plan: The Wrekin UA, Shropshire County Council Joint structure plan: Exmoor NPA, Somerset County Council Joint structure plan: Stoke-on-Trent City, Staffordshire County Council Structure plan Structure plan Structure plan Structure plan Joint structure plan: Swindon UA, Wiltshire County Council

North Yorkshire County Council


Nottinghamshire County Council


Shropshire County Council


Staffordshire County Council




West Sussex

Wiltshire County Council

Note: For clarity, the term ‘unitary authority’ (UA) is used here rather than district council. The Peak District National Park and Lake District National Park are also structure plan authorities. From April 1997 all national parks became the sole planning authority for their area.

Joint structure plan: Leicester City UA, Rutland UA, Leicestershire County Council


Lancashire County Council Joint structure plan: Blackburn with Darwen UA, Blackpool UA, Lancashire County Council

New arrangements

Previous structure plan authority

Table 4.1 continued


Figure 4.5 The Planning Policy Framework in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales



TOWN AND COUNTRY PLANNING IN THE UK Table 4.2 Structure Plan Areas in Scotland Single authority structure plan areas

Joint structure plan areas

Argyle and Bute Borders Dumfries and Galloway Falkirk Fife Highland Moray Orkney Islands Perthshire and Kinross Shetland Islands Western Isles

Aberdeen City Aberdeenshire East Ayrshire North Ayrshire South Ayrshire Angus Dundee Stirling Clackmannanshire East Lothian Edinburgh Midlothian West Lothian Dumbarton and Clydebank East Dumbartonshire East Renfrewshire Glasgow City Inverclyde North Lanarkshire Renfrewshire

to the House of Commons Northern Ireland Affairs Committee’s 1996 report The Planning System in Northern Ireland. The committee expressed serious concerns about the lack of a clear strategy for the Province as a whole (which is now met by the creation of the Regional Planning Strategy) and the inadequacy of the development plans system. Northern Ireland is not affected by changes in local government. Area and local plans will continue to be prepared by the six divisional offices of the DoENI.

others may legitimately be attributed to a desire to avoid some of the difficulties of the English system. Because of the different administrative structure and larger planning areas in Scotland, there is a slightly different emphasis in the functions of structure plans, which are to indicate policies and proposals concerning the scale and general location of new development, and to provide a regional policy framework for accommodating development (PAN 37:7). Progress on the approval of structure plans was a significant problem, with an average of seventeen months needed for Secretary of State approval. Changes to the development plan system itself have followed closely those introduced south of the Border. For example, the procedure for making alterations to structure plans and local plans has been made simpler. Also, certain adjustments have been made to the division of planning responsibilities between regions and districts. The 1991 Act brought some of the same changes made in England and Wales to Scotland, notably the


The Scottish system differs in several significant ways from that in England and Wales, but the two-tier system of development plans and the procedures for the adoption and approval were broadly similar until 1996. Some differences can be attributed to the particular geographical characteristics of Scotland;


enhanced status of development plans in development control and insertion of section 18A into the 1972 Act, with the same effect as s. 54A in England and Wales; calls for more succinct statements of policy; and the emphasis on ‘physical land use development’ (PAN 37). However, in a number of ways the Scottish development plan system remains distinctive. The structure plan still has to be approved by central government. The survey still plays a part in the approval, and must be put on deposit and accompany the deposited plan in the submission. Local government reorganisation created unitary authorities in Scotland in 1996, and although the two-tier system of structure and local plans was retained, joint working is now necessary for the production of some structure plans, and the arrangements are summarised in Figure 4.5 and Table 4.2. The Scottish Office has designated seventeen structure plan areas, six of which cover more than one unitary authority. Local planning continues unchanged in the new unitary districts. Evaluation of development planning in Scotland for the Scottish Executive (Hillier Parker et al. 1998) also reveals similarities with the situation in England and Wales. Local government reorganisation delayed the production of plans, and it was not until 1989 that full structure plan cover was achieved. However, progress on local plans has been better overall than in England and Wales, mainly because of the mandatory requirement. Recommendations are made for widening the ownership of plans through more effective involvement of other interests and for giving the plan more focus to avoid over-complexity.


In Wales the system of development plans was virtually the same as that for England until 1996. One important variation was that the responsibility for waste rested with the districts (rather than counties) and thus waste policies were included in local plans rather than separate county-wide subject plans. Local government reorganisation created unitary councils in 1996, and the plan framework was amended to require each authority (including the

national parks) to prepare a unitary development plan. The Welsh UDP will have a similar form to the UDPs in the English metropolitan districts, with a Part I and Part II. The councils may prepare UDPs jointly, and the Part II element may be prepared by area committees. Arrangements for the transition to the new framework have been put in place. Welsh local authorities were able to seek approval from the Secretary of State to continue through to the adoption of plans already in preparation. With changes to local authority boundaries, local plans (including some yet to be adopted) may cover only part of an authority’s area or be split between two.


The 1947 legislation was largely concerned with land use: ‘a development plan means a plan indicating the manner in which a local planning authority propose that land in their area should be used’. The 1968 Act signalled a major shift in focus: emphasis was laid on major economic and social forces and on broad policies or strategies for large areas. It was held that land use planning could not be undertaken satisfactorily in isolation from the social and economic objectives which it served. Thus the plans were to encompass such matters as the distribution of population and employment, housing, education, and leisure. This broader concept of planning did not survive, and by 1980 central government had moved back to a predominantly land use approach. This radical departure from the ideas of 1968, and the contraction of the scope of structure plans, have been widely documented (Cross and Bristow 1983; Healey 1986). Central government also intervened to restrict plan content significantly. Thornley (1991: 124) provides a useful summary of what he describes as the ‘attack on structure plans’.26 During the 1990s, Departmental advice about plan content has become increasingly specific and restrictive. The impact has been that, while local plans embraced wide-ranging social and economic objectives, their proposals nevertheless are ‘primarily about land allocation’ (Healey 1983: 189) Moreover, though local plans vary substantially in




form, and ‘appear local in orientation and specific to particular areas and issues’, there is considerable consistency in scope and content. Consistency arises from the need for central government support for policy, and because of the limited planning powers provided by legislation. Perhaps another cause lies in the professional training and culture of planners, which are rooted in land use and physical concerns.

BOX 4.2

Criticisms of the weaknesses of environmental planning, the sustainable development agenda, and the need for more policy integration have led the government to promote a wider scope for development plans. The 1999 revision of PPG 12 provides some clarification of the government’s current position on plan content, as shown in Box 4.2.


The topics that the Act requires local planning authorities to consider: • the conservation of the natural beauty and amenity of the land; • the improvement of the physical environment; and • the management of traffic In addition subjects that may be considered in structure plans are: • housing, including figures for additional housing requirements in each district, and targets for development on greenfield and brownfield sites; • green belts; • the conservation and improvement of the natural and built environment; • the economy of the area, including major industrial, business, retail, and other employmentgenerating and wealth-creating development; • a transport and land use strategy and the provision of strategic transport facilities including highways, and other infrastructure requirements; • mineral working (including disposal of mineral waste) and protection of mineral resources; waste treatment and disposal, land reclamation and reuse; • tourism, leisure, and recreation; and • energy generation including renewable energy (para. 3.10).

In relation to sustainable development, PPG 12 suggests ‘other issues that may be addressed in plans, either as land use policies or as considerations which influence policies in the plan’. These include: • environmental considerations: energy, air quality, water quality, noise and light pollution, biodiversity, habitats, landscape quality, the character and vitality of town centres, tree and hedgerow protection and planting, revitalisation of urban areas, conservation of the built and archaeological heritage, coastal protection, flood prevention, land drainage, groundwater resources, environmental impacts of waste and minerals operations, unstable land; • economic growth and employment: revitalisation and broadening of the local economy and employment opportunities, encouraging industrial and commercial development, types of economic development; and generally to take account of the needs of businesses while ensuring that proposals are realistic; • social progress: impact of planning policies on different groups, social exclusion, affordable housing, crime prevention, sport, leisure and informal recreation, provision for schools and higher education, places of worship, prisons, and other community facilities, accommodation for gypsies; but ‘to limit the plan content to social considerations that are relevant to land use policies’.


A consequence of the increasing attention that many organisations now give to plans in the light of the ‘plan-led system’ has been the production of ‘model policies’.27 Numerous national and local organisations such as the Environment Agency, English Nature, and Friends of the Earth (1994a) have suggested policy wording that can be taken ‘off the shelf ’ rather than written anew for each local plan. General advice is now also given by the POS (1997). The documents provide both general advice about how to write policy and what is admissible content, and a bank of generic policy statements that can be tailored to local circumstances. Other advice is given in individual planning policy and good practice guidance, notably the DETR’s Planning for Sustainable Development: Towards Better Practice (1998).The amount of advice given to planning authorities about plans is somewhat overwhelming, and the detail suggested often goes beyond what is appropriate in local plans. The pressure to incorporate many additional policies has been a major cause of delay and uncertainty in the system.


A particularly helpful feature of the 1991 Act is that it brought the procedures for the various types of plan (in England and Wales) much more closely into line with each other, but the most recent changes are forcing them apart again. Devolution may also create more variation across the country. The general procedure for the preparation of local plans in England is illustrated in Figure 4.6. Essentially, the procedures comprise ‘safeguards’ to ensure the accountability of government in the planning process. This is particularly important in the UK, where there is no constitutional safeguard of private property or other rights (other than that provided by the European Convention on Human Rights) and where there is wide administrative discretion in decision-making. There is no appeal to the courts on the policy content of plans. The procedures also provide for increased involvement of other

organisations and the public in policy formulation. The process of open discussion and formal adoption lends authority and standing to plans, and provides an element of legitimacy even though the plans are not subject to direct ministerial approval. In the following discussion the focus is on the key safeguards, the main criticisms of the procedure, and recent amendments. The knotty questions about the extent to which the public and other objectors are effectively able to make use of the safeguards and how this influences plan content are dealt with in Chapter 12. The main safeguards in plan preparation and adoption are as follows: • the opportunity for all interests to be consulted in the formative stages of plan preparation; • the need for authorities to consider conformity between plans and regional and national guidance; • the right to make objections to both strategic and detailed plans, and to have objections to the latter heard before an independent further inspector; • a further right to object to any proposed modifications or where the authority proposes to reject the recommendation of an inspector or a panel; • the overarching right of the Secretary of State to intervene and to direct modifications; and • a limited right to challenge the plan in the courts. The central focus of the formal adoption procedure is the hearing. In the case of a local plan or UDP, this is a public local inquiry; in the case of a structure plan, it is an examination in public. At the inquiry an independent inspector hears ‘objections’, whereas the examination in public (EIP) is a ‘probing discussion’ of selected matters which the authority needs to consider before taking the structure plan forward. (The forms of hearing are discussed further in Chapter 12). Anyone can object to a development plan, and the planning authority has a duty to consider all objections. For local plans and UDPs, objectors also have a right to present their case to the inquiry. The EIP deals only with those matters which the authority considers need examination in public, and the planning




Figure 4.6 The Procedure for the Adoption of Development Plans in England





authority determines who shall participate in the examination (whether or not they have made objections or representations). It has been a constant theme that the planning system has performed poorly in preparing plans and keeping them up to date, especially in the 1990s, when there was strong support from central government for the preparation and effective use of plans. The planmaking process takes about five and half years on average (Steel et al.1995), and ‘in excess of four years in Scotland’ (Hillier Parker et al. 1998: 11). These averages mask great variation, extending from three to ten years. In England the time taken to adopt plans has tended to get longer because the enhanced status of plans and the district-wide format have led to an increase in the number of objections. However, overall productivity in the system may have improved because the increase in time taken to prepare and adopt is much less than the extra work that is entailed. The greatest proportion of time taken in the process is still in the preparation of a draft plan prior to deposit – a problem confirmed by the recent research on structure plans (Baker and Roberts 1999). Overall, the generalisations made here need to be treated with care. Some planning authorities are able to cope very well with the procedures and produce plans in good time and keep them up to date.28 In contrast, the performance of some planning authorities is abysmal, with very slow progress and little information about programmes. There are periodic calls from ministers for improved performance – the latest in 2000, when 20 per cent of planning authorities in England had still failed to adopt a local or unitary development plan.29 Nevertheless, government initiatives to improve plan-making performance concentrate on amending the procedures, when this is plainly not the main problem. Various changes have been made to attempt to simplify and to speed up the procedures. The amendments include reducing the requirements for public participation; allowing the local plan to be adopted in advance of a structure plan review; powers for the Secretary of State to request modifications; and providing more opportunity for objections after the inquiry.30 In the wake of the 1991 Act, new targets

were set for complete cover of plans by 1996. It quickly became apparent that the targets were not going to be met. In 1994 the DoE issued a consultation paper setting out proposals for further amendments to the procedure. This was followed in 1996 by revisions to the Code of Conduct for inquiries and EIPs, and regulations governing the preparation of plans. The proposals include removal of excessive detail from plans, more effective consultation early in the process, more emphasis on dealing with objections in writing, and shorter reports from inspectors. While substantial, the changes have not reduced the work for local authorities, especially in the context of escalating numbers of objections. Criticism continued to be made about the cumbersome and timeconsuming procedures. The TCPA, the RTPI, the LGA, and the Planning Officers’ Society all published their own recommendations for improving the efficiency of the procedures and effectiveness of the system. All the papers place an emphasis on procedural changes, and relatively little attention is given to the form and content of plans. This is surprising, given the massive changes in the context for development planning since this was last reviewed. It is also disappointing to note the lack of attention to research findings and previous debates. Recommendations for reform included abolition of the inquiry altogether, and making the inspector’s recommendations binding on the local authority (Roberts 1998; RTPI 1999). In Scotland the 1998 Hillier Parker report on development planning came to similar conclusions, arguing that the report of the public inquiry should be binding and that there should be a national timetable for plan production. Research on the efficiency and effectiveness of local plan inquiries (Steel et al. 1995) suggests that making the inspector’s report binding would be difficult to implement and probably counter-productive. The report pointed up the weakness in the capacity (and sometimes willingness) of many planning authorities to manage the procedure according to the guidance laid down. It also noted other factors which can be critical to the effectiveness of the procedure, including the form and content of the plan, especially the level of detail and the types of policies and proposals.


In 1996 the DoE began a more fundamental review of the development plan process. A 1997 consultation paper set out the options for speeding delivery of plans, and a further paper in 1998, under the Modernising Planning initiative, made specific proposals (its title was Improving Arrangements for the Delivery of Local Plans and Unitary Development Plans). During 1999 the DETR consulted on a revised PPG 12 along with draft revised regulations, and final versions were published at the end of that year. Also during 1999 the DETR consulted on the structure planning system by circulating the research report (Baker and Roberts 1999). The 1999 version of PPG 12 rejects calls to make the inspectors’ recommendations binding or to limit the rights to object and appear at the inquiry. Instead, the emphasis of the new procedure is on pre-deposit consultation based on issues papers, drawing out objections at an early stage in the process, reducing the length and detail of plans, and improving local authority management of the process, including the requirement for a publicly adopted timetable for plan production. The new regulations require a ‘two-stage deposit’ for local plans and UDPs, as shown in Figure 4.6. The first initial deposit will allow local authorities to gather objections, and this will be followed by a period of negotiation and revision of the plan. A second revised deposit stage will gather objections on any of the changes to the plan made by the planning authority. The regulations also reduce the statutory requirement for consultation with consultees prior to deposit, although this is unlikely to have much effect in practice. Of equal note in the PPG are the guidelines on the role of plans in enabling sustainable development, and the integration of transport and land use policies in plans, both of which are explained in the relevant chapters. Here it is sufficient to note that there are inevitable implications for the complexity of plans and the process, and thus the time required for plan preparation. Despite the constant amendment to the planmaking process, the basic procedure has proved resilient. This is perhaps because it nicely balances the concerns of local authorities (which typically call for fewer procedural requirements in order to speed the

process) and the concerns of objectors of all kinds (who naturally desire more influence in the local planning process). But the criticisms have been consistent and certainly a factor in the lack of enthusiasm of planning authorities for statutory plan-making.


There were high hopes for the new development plan regime. It was anticipated that the planning system should become simpler and more responsive, reducing costs for both the private sector and local authorities and making it easier for people to be involved in the planning process. Central government set a target of the end of 1996 for the adoption of the new round of plans, and considerable encouragement was given to local authorities to produce the plans expeditiously. In many parts of the country plans have been put into place or updated. But the great frustration for many supporters of plan-led development is that many authorities have failed to respond to the challenge – hence the unusually frank statements on local authority performance given by ministers. Every opportunity has been given to local authorities to put their plans into place, but in some places lack of political will, professional expertise, or failures in management, together with some confusing advice from central government, have compounded to undermine progress. By the end of 2000 about a fifth of local planning authorities had no adopted statutory plan, and many others had plans that were out of date. The plan-making process today is for most places much more complex and contentious than it was in the 1980s primarily because of the increasing participation of interests who recognise its potential significance for later development control decisions. Objections to plans are now typically counted in thousands, while few plans would have been subject to this level of objection twenty years earlier. One example (among many) is the case of the East Lothian Local Plan, where in 1998–99 the Scottish Inquiry Reporters Unit engaged three reporters on the inquiry who simultaneously addressed eight associated planning appeals.




The DTLR too has become increasingly active in scrutinising plans prior to the inquiry and has recruited additional staff to check plans for consistency with central government policy and regional guidance. The result has been more departmental objections to plans, and frequent and sometimes lengthy requests for changes. This represents a sharp increase in central government involvement in local planning. Despite the increasing complexity, government intervention and the effective practice of some planning authorities, it would not be unfair to sum up the record of plan-making in much of the country as poor. Coverage of up-to-date plans is still patchy, it does not reflect the costs of the service, it has suffered major delays, and monitoring and review is weak. The situation is an embarrassment for central government and local authorities alike. The Planning Concordat drawn up between the LGA and DETR in 1999 recognises that ‘under-performance by some local authorities . . . could undermine the plan-led system’. The issue has also been taken up in a series of ministerial meetings with planning officers in the regions during 1999. The evidence suggests that the problem of delay relating to the statutory procedure has been overplayed. The most time-consuming part of the plan preparation process is in preparing the draft plan, not in the formal stages. The form of many adopted local plans and UDPs reflects a ‘blueprint mentality’, where the objective is to produce a blueprint for all development and anticipate all future decisions in the one document. This in part is because of government guidance which still (rather contradictorily) requires local authorities to include all policies that the local authority may use to refuse planning applications or to impose conditions on permissions. There is also an evident lack of experience and skills in many authorities and there are relatively few professionals who have experience of successful plan formulation. The planning schools may also have overlooked this in the curricula. Management, by officers and elected members, has often been weak (even now, some authorities cannot specify the target date for adoption), and often there is little political pressure to get the plans completed.

Overall, the quality or ‘fitness for purpose’ of plans has been lacking. The Inspectorate has gathered evidence from many hundreds of planning inquiries and its views and advice have been widely circulated.31 The main problems have been failure to plan ahead from the start; poor attitudes to objectors, who are seen as a nuisance; shifting priorities during the plan-making process, which reflects a lack of commitment of officers and members; unnecessary conflicts with the regional offices and the DETR; provoking conflict through unnecessary plan content that seeks to cover all contingencies; too much prescription and detail, including policies not capable of implementation or monitoring; and failure to identify costs of these problems for senior managers and politicians. It should be emphasised that many successful authorities do not exhibit these problems. Also, external factors have played a part: fluctuating attitudes of central government to planmaking; problems with the two-tier system; political conflicts; and the former Conservative government’s negative attitude towards planning and local government.


There are two examples of attempts to reintroduce the zoning approach in the UK planning system, in an effort to simplify planning: enterprise zones and simplified planning zones. Both reflect economic rather than land use planning objectives. A major plank in the Conservative government’s response to economic recession in the early 1980s was the proposed reduction in the ‘burden’ of regulation on business and enterprise’.32 In enterprise zones (EZs), amendments to the planning regime were part of a much wider range of advantages offered, including exemption from rates on industrial and commercial property. The enterprise zone scheme had the effect of granting planning permissions in advance for such developments as the scheme specifies, and it was up to the planning authority to determine what planning concessions were offered. The scheme was simply proposed by the local authority and approved by the Secretary of State. Thirty-two enterprise zones were


designated.33 The enterprise zone initiative was closely monitored, and findings show in some cases a dramatic increase in development activity.34 Overall, however, the liberalisation of land use planning controls made only a minor contribution to any success. A considerable amount of negotiation (whether it be termed ‘planning’ or not) still had to take place, both between the developers and local authorities and also between developers and other agencies. Whatever the research on enterprise zones might have concluded, the government was so enamoured of the idea that it introduced a new type of simplified planning zone (SPZ) based upon it. The general notion of zoning as an alternative to the development plan had been rejected, but the DoE did see a limited role for zoning in particular locations where greater certainty, and some flexibility in the detail of development proposals, would contribute to economic development objectives. An SPZ is the local equivalent to a development order made by the Secretary of State. It replaces the normal discretionary planning system with advance permission for specified types of development. Two broad types of scheme are possible: the specific scheme, which lists certain uses to be permitted, and the general scheme, which gives a wide permission but excludes certain uses. Conditions can be made in advance, and certain matters can be reserved for detailed consideration through the normal planning process. SPZs cannot be adopted in national parks, the Norfolk Broads, AONBs, SSSIs, approved green belts, conservation areas, and other protected areas. SPZs were particularly promoted for older industrial sites (especially those in single ownership) where there is a need to promote regeneration (Lloyd 1992). The introduction of the SPZ provisions has excited very limited interest, and progress has been slow. Such interest as there was tended to come from authorities with experience of (or failure to obtain) enterprise zones: these authorities had fewer fears about the loss of normal development control powers over the quality of development (Arup Economic Consultants 1991). In all important respects the procedures for adoption of SPZs were identical to those of local plan preparation and adoption. The prospect of taking

a scheme through these lengthy procedures was daunting, and it rapidly became clear that they were (in the words of the research report) ‘undoubtedly cumbersome’. As with development plans, the procedures have been amended to try to encourage more interest, but with little effect (Blackhall 1993, 1994). Some of the reasons are perhaps obvious. There is little difference between the allocation of land in a development plan and an SPZ: both indicate the type of development that is acceptable. Moreover, the extra ‘certainty’ provided by an SPZ designation is to some extent illusory since formal relationships are replaced by informal discussions. Additionally, decisions on the fulfilment of conditions and negotiations on reserved matters may still be needed. There are only a very small number of zones, and these operate in a narrow range of circumstances. Overall, as Allmendinger (1996b) argues, the SPZ concept largely failed because it lacked clear and consistent objectives. It sought to offer deregulation and more certainty for developers, but in fact led to greater uncertainty when put into practice. But, above all, the recession at the end of the 1980s undermined property-led development, on which the idea rested. The reintroduction of zoning into the British planning system through SPZs has thus been unsuccessful.


Given the issues raised above, the Best Value initiative is going to be a considerable challenge for development planning. Chapter 3 described how Best Value takes forward the value-for-money theme underpinning CCT. But Best Value ‘is not just about economy and efficiency, but also about effectiveness and the quality of services’. The principles of Best Value are as relevant to development planning as any other local authority service: clear service standards – as regards both cost and quality; targets for continuous improvement by the most effective, economic, and efficient means; more say for service users; independent audit and inspection; and new powers for government to act on service failures.




Development planning has tended to escape valuefor-money initiatives previously (unlike development control), but Best Value is comprehensive: it applies to all services (whether provided directly or indirectly) and all resources. Also, Best Value is supposed to help in addressing ‘cross-cutting issues’ such as sustainable development, which is central to development planning. But Best Value is also a very positive opportunity to improve performance in development planning because it focuses on the main management failure of local authorities: ‘lack of attention to how resources are used in relation to common objectives’. Henceforth, planning authorities will need to judge their performance in development planning against performance indicators and targets, some set at national level and some by the authority (the national Best Value performance indicators (BVPIs) are listed in Chapter 3). National targets for quality will need to be consistent over five years with performance in the top quartile of all authorities when the targets are set, and for cost and efficiency consistent with the top 25 per cent in the region. Very few plans have been put out to tender for preparation by the private sector, but under Best Value, local authority work must be subject to real competitive pressure – for example, by commissioning an independent benchmarking report to compare with other authorities or by putting out to tender all or part of the service to the private sector and other local authorities, with or without the in-house team bidding. Some authorities already have performance plans in place for the planning service, including development planning. Elsewhere, there may be a need for urgent action in relation to plan-making. Among the issues that will need to be addressed are the need to demonstrate the value and quality of the plan; giving more attention to balancing the costs of the planning exercise with the value of the plan product; and extending participation and consultation beyond plan content to evaluating the satisfaction of participants with the process.


General A good starting point for investigation of the policy framework is DETR PPG 1: General Policy and Principles (1997) and PPG 12: Development Plans and Regional Planning Guidance (1999) (these apply to England; see also their equivalents in the other countries of the UK). There are no textbooks which cover all the material in this chapter, but selected sources on particular aspects are noted below. Supranational Planning The literature on European spatial planning is growing rapidly. Williams (1996) European Union Spatial Policy and Planning provides an excellent introduction to European planning instruments. A good summary of the emergence of planning at the European level is by Fit and Kragt (1994) ‘The long road to European spatial planning’. Other material includes the ESDP itself which is available on the Inforegio web site at . For interpretation and critique, see Bengs and Böhme (1998) The Progress of European Spatial Planning; Böhme and Bengs (1999) From Trends to Visions: The European Spatial Development Perspective; the special edition of Built Environment 23(4), especially the article by Bastrup-Birk and Doucet ‘European spatial planning from the heart’; Faludi (2000) ‘The European Spatial Development Perspective: what next?’; the special edition of Town and Country Planning 67 (2) (1998); and Zonneveld and Faludi (1996) ‘Cohesion versus competitive position: a new direction for European spatial planning’. On the impact of European spatial planning in the UK, see Nadin (1999) ‘British planning in its European context’, Wilkinson et al. (1998) The Impact of the EU on the UK Planning System; and Bishop et al. (2000) ‘From spatial to local: the impact of the European Union on local authority planning in the UK’. On Interreg IIc, see Nadin and Shaw (1998) ‘Transnational spatial planning in Europe: the role of Interreg IIc in the UK’.


There is increasing interest in the different planning systems in Europe. The European Commission’s Compendium of Spatial Planning Systems and Policies (Nadin et al. 1997) is the most comprehensive source, Other recent sources include Newman and Thornley (1996) Urban Planning in Europe; Healey et al. (1994) Trends in Development Plan Making in European Planning; Schmidt-Eichstaedt (1996) Land Use Planning and Building Permission in the European Union; and the updated ISOCARP International Manual of Planning Practice (Lyddon and Dal Cin 1996). The older Davies et al. (1989b) Planning Control in Western Europe is also still relevant. National and Regional Planning PPG 11 and the regional guidance notes themselves are key references. Beyond that, there are now several critical reviews of national guidance, including Land Use Consultants (1995a) The Effectiveness of Planning Policy Guidance Notes. A comprehensive review of regional guidance is given in the symposium edited by Minay (1992), with updates by Roberts and Lloyd (1999) ‘Institutional aspects of regional planning, management, and development: models and lessons from the English experience’; Quinn (1996) ‘Central government planning policy’; Kitchen (1999a) ‘Consultation on government policy initiatives: the case of regional planning guidance’; and Baker (1998) ‘Planning for the English regions: a review of the Secretary of State’s regional planning guidance’. On Scottish guidance, see Raemaekers et al. (1994) Planning Guidance for Scotland and Land Use Consultants (1999) Review of National Planning Policy Guidelines. On Wales, see Alden and Offord (1996) ‘Regional planning guidance’. There are many references on regional planning, including the standard textbook by Glasson (1992b) An Introduction to Regional Planning. Wannop (1995) The Regional Imperative provides a review with international comparisons. The resurgence of interest in strategic planning is analysed by Breheny (1991) ‘The renaissance of strategic planning’ and Roberts and Lloyd (1999) ‘Institutional aspects of regional planning, management, and development: models and

lessons from the English experience’. Current practice in Northern Ireland is reflected in the DoENI (1998) Shaping Our Future: Towards a Strategy for the Development of the Region – Draft Regional Strategic Framework for Northern Ireland. Proposals for the UK spatial planning framework have been made by Wong et al. (2000). Development Plans PPG 12 (1999), and its equivalents elsewhere in the UK, are the basic sources. Baker and Roberts’ Examination of the Operation and Effectiveness of the Structure Planning Process provides a much-needed comprehensive review of current structure planning practice. More detailed procedures are considered by Phelps (1995) ‘Structure plans: the conduct and conventions of examinations in public’ and Jarvis (1996) ‘Structure planning policy and strategic planning guidance in Wales’. The RTPI has published a guide to good practice and a research report both entitled Fitness for Purpose (2001a, b). There is more material on local planning, although much of it concentrates on procedures. The most recent textbook is Adams (1994) Urban Planning and the Development Process; and Tewdwr-Jones (1996) British Planning Policy in Transition: Planning in the 1990s gives a wide-ranging set of papers. The standard texts are now ageing. Their explanations for success and failure are still pertinent, but the details of practice less so: Healey (1983) Local Plans in British Land Use Planning; Bruton and Nicholson (1987) Local Planning in Practice; and Fudge et al. (1983) Speed, Economy and Effectiveness in Local Plan Preparation and Adoption. Other notable sources on local planning include Hull (1998) ‘Spatial planning: the development plan as a vehicle to unlock development potential?’; Hull and Vigar (1998) ‘The changing role of the development plan in managing spatial change’; Vigar and Healey (1999) ‘Territorial integration and “plan-1ed” planning’; Healey (1994) ‘Development plans: new approaches to making frameworks for land use regulation’; Healey (1986) ‘The role of development plans in the British planning system’; Healey (1990) ‘Places, people and politics: plan-making in the




1990s’, and several chapters of case studies in Greed (1996a) Implementing Town Planning. An important text summarising a major evaluation of the impact of development plans is Healey et al. (1988) Land Use Planning and the Mediation of Urban Change. See also Davies et al.(1986b) The Relationship between Development Plans and Development Control, and MacGregor and Ross (1995) ‘Master or servant? The changing role of the development plan in the British planning system’. Kitchen (1997) People, Politics, Policies and Plans gives a view of plan making from inside a local authority. Up-to-date summaries of procedures are given in the latest editions of Duxbury (1999) Telling and Duxbury’s Planning Law and Procedure and Moore (2000) A Practical Approach to Planning Law. Steel et al.(1995) The Efficiency and Effectiveness of Local Plan Inquiries examines the procedures in practice, as does the RTPI Study by Cardiff University and Buchanan Partnership (1997) Slimmer and Swifter: A Critical Examination of District Wide Local Plans and UDPs. For Northern Ireland, see Dowling (1995) Northern Ireland Planning Law; and for Scotland, Collar (1994) Green’s Concise Scots Law: Planning and McAllister and McMaster (1994) Scottish Planning Law. The value of enterprise zones is considered by PA Cambridge Economic Consultants (1995) Final Evaluation of Enterprise Zones, while the number of publications on SPZs outnumbers the zones. See Blackhall (1993) The Performance of Simplified Planning Zones; Lloyd (1992) ‘Simplified planning zones, land development, and planning policy in Scotland’; and Allmendinger (1996a) ‘Twilight zones’. Official guidance is given in PPG 5, PAN 31, and TAN (W)3, all entitled Simplified Planning Zones.


1 Council Regulation (EC) no. 1260/1999 Official Journal L 161 21.6.99. For a review of the differences between the 2000–06 and 1995–99 programmes, see the European Commission paper Reform of the Structural Funds 2000–2006 Comparative Analysis. June 1999. The full texts of




5 6

the regulations and explanatory memoranda are available on the Inforegio web site: . Areas are designated according to the Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS). In England NUTS 1 equates to the standard regions, NUTS 2 to groups of counties, and NUTS 3 to individual counties or groups of local authorities. The definition of the NUTS regions is very contentious as it can determine whether the area is eligible for Community assistance (Casellas and Galley 1999). The DTI has favoured the use of smaller statistical areas (wards) for the definition of assisted areas Tier 2 in the UK. The Funds are the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund (ESF), the Guidance section of the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF), and the Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (FIFG). Objective 1 areas make use of all four, Objective 2 areas are eligible for ERDF and ESF, and Objective 3 makes use of the ESF only. There is in addition an 18 billion euro Cohesion Fund available for structural assistance to Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain, and 21 billion euros earmarked for the accession countries. The comparative figure for the five-year programming period to 1999 is 155 billion euros, of which the UK received 13 billion (about £7.8 billion). Northern Ireland also benefits from a special PEACE programme under the Community Initiatives which is worth 500 million euros (100 million of which is to be spent in the Republic of Ireland). Official Journal 98/C 74/06. INTERREG IIc was launched in 1996 (OJ 96/C200/07) and builds on previous cross-border cooperation programmes through Interreg I and IIa. It is funded under the ERDF Regulation EEC 4254/88. Competence for the EU to provide funding in this way comes from Article 161 (ex-Article 130d) under Title XVII Economic and Social Cohesion, and the Structural Fund










regulations under this Article give more detailed justification. Article 10 funding was also used to promote transnational planning in some areas. A parallel programme, TERRA, has been launched to promote transnational cooperation on spatial planning in areas which are ‘vulnerable’. Details of projects funded through Interreg IIc are available on the programme web sites, which are accessible via . The Vision for North West Europe is available at , and the Norvision at . These arguments have been developed and consolidated over time in a succession of documents. Those not mentioned elsewhere in this chapter include the European Regional and Spatial Planning Charter (CoE 1983), Guiding Principles for Sustainable Spatial Development (CEMAT 1999); and the Fifth Environmental Action Programme on the Environment: Towards Sustainability (European Commission 1992) (the sixth is to be published in 2001). The Scottish Executive has also taken a very positive attitude towards the dissemination of national planning guidance. Copies are freely distributed and many are available for reference on the Scottish Executive web site . Minister for Transport and the Environment (Scotland) Speech to the RTPI National Conference, 25 November 1999. The DETR consultation paper Planning for Major Projects draws attention to the problem of long inquiries debating policy in the absence or more specific national guidance on significant developments such as airports. A series of papers have been prepared on behalf of the RTPI considering the potential of a national spatial planning framework. A collection of papers exploring the subject was published in Town Planning Review 70 (3) (1999). The planning policy statements supersede








relevant policy advice in the Planning Strategy for Rural Northern Ireland, and the whole strategy is to be replaced by 2002. The first PPSs to be published in 1995 were on transport, retailing, town centres, and industrial development. The Town and Country Planning Association has for many years been at the forefront of the campaign for better strategic planning; see, for example, D. Hall (1991) and TCPA (1993). The RTPI published its case for enhancing regional planning guidance, Regional Planning in England, in 1997. The research projects were the Scoping Study: RPG Targets and Indicators undertaken by ECOTEC (1999) and Proposals for a Good Practice Guide on Sustainability Appraisal of Regional Planning Guidance undertaken by Baker Associates (1999). Examples of targets given in PPG 11 are traffic reduction and modal split; development of town centre versus out-of-town floorspace; rural accessibility to services; enhancement of biodiversity; and the use of recycled materials. The research found that current practice only sets quantified housing targets. The ECOTEC Scoping Study: RPG Targets and Indicators (1999) provides some interesting findings on the capacity of the regional bodies to undertake regional planning, and has some positive conclusions too – for example, recent considerable improvements in the information base in some regions. The report of Raemakers et al. on national planning guidance in Scotland (1994) recommended a tier of regional planning guidance for Scotland, and a return to regional reports for the city regions in the central belt to provide greater coordination in joint structure plan preparation in the wake of local government reorganisation, but this has not yet been taken up. Twenty-five thousand houses were built in the countryside over ten years, many close to the urban centres, and the annual figure of 2,500–3,000 for Northern Ireland is more than for the rest of the UK put together. Unlike the structure plan, which was prepared by









all relevant authorities for the whole of their area, local authorities were advised that local plans would not be needed in all areas, for example where there was little pressure for development and no need to stimulate growth. This discretion was used: a small number of authorities prepared a single plan for the whole area, others prepared one or more plans for parts of their area, while others prepared none at all. The development plan scheme (later replaced by the local plan scheme) set out the agreed programme for the preparation and amendment of local plans. With the introduction of a mandatory requirement to produce district-wide local plans in 1992 such schemes have been made redundant. The 1986 Act required local authorities to keep a register of development plan policies and the new regulations require a similar index of information in respect of the development plan. The certificate of conformity is given by the structure planning authority. Before 1992 the lack of a certificate would delay the local plan process, but today any disputes about conformity are taken to the inquiry as an objection. By 1977 only seventeen of the necessary eightynine structure plans for England and Wales had been submitted, and seven approved. By 1980, of seventy-nine English structure plans which were expected, sixty-four had been submitted and thirty-eight approved. Further support has been lent to these arguments by subsequent research. Rydin et al.(1990) and Collins and McConnell (1988) argued for recognition of the value of plans, and for a stronger development plan framework, but also for flexibility for local variation in form and content. Strategic guidance was published for all the metropolitan regions, but except for London (where it has a statutory character) and the Thames Gateway, it has been or is planned to be incorporated into RPG. In the 1980 Manchester Structure Plan, for example, the Secretary of State ‘deleted more than 40 per cent of the policies, and a further 20 per cent were substantially modified’. Thornley






argues that such actions reflected the government’s intention to allow market forces to operate at the cost of social and other wider objectives. The idea of model policies for local plans was proposed in the early 1970s (Fudge et al.1983) but received little support. Some of the authorities with the best records of plan production are in the areas where the planning process is under most pressure, as in the Home Counties around London. In February 2000 Nick Raynsford, Minister for Planning, said, ‘It is not acceptable that nine years after the requirement to produce an area-wide local plan was introduced, many authorities have still not done so. Indeed 5 per cent do not expect to have an adopted plan before 2002 and 2 per cent of authorities have not yet placed a plan on deposit. . . . I am also extremely concerned that there are over 200 local authority adopted development plans which will reach, or will have passed their original end-date [due date?] by 2001’ (DETR Press Notice, l4 February 2000). In fact, the mandatory requirement was anticipated at least two years before its implementation. Concerned or not, these regular statements have not led to any intervention by government. The Local Government and Planning Act 1980 introduced an expedited procedure which, in certain circumstances, allowed the local plan to be adopted in advance of a structure plan review. The Housing and Planning Act 1986 gave powers to the Secretary of State to request modifications to plans (in addition to the seldom used powers to call in). Most recently, the 1991 Act abandoned the need for the six-week consultation period prior to the deposit for objections, and an extra opportunity has been provided for objections after the inquiry where the planning authority does not accept the inspector’s recommendations. Most of this advice is written up in the Inspectorate’s guidance to local authorities. This account also incorporates comments made during the delivery of University of the West of England short courses by the former head of local plan inquiries at the Inspectorate, David John. See also


the RTPI guide to good practice listed under ‘Further reading’. 32 Sir Geoffrey Howe credited the notion to Sir Peter Hall, who in turn identified the origins of the concept in a 1969 article (Banham et al.1969). Hall (1991) has reviewed the ways in which this notion was transposed and ‘sanitised’ into the enterprise zone initiative in Britain.

33 The remaining enterprise zones are the East Midlands, Dearne Valley, North East Derbyshire, and Tyne Riverside. 34 The Corby EZ, for example, was virtually fully committed after seven years with 5,600 jobs and 293,000 million sq. ft of new floorspace (PA Cambridge Economic Consultants, 1987).



The extent of vilification to which development control has been subject in Britain over the past 25 years suggests that it may be a rather more important process than its detractors allow. The importance of the process has, at one level, to do with matters of substance. Questions of land-use and urban form affect profoundly the welfare and enjoyment of life of those who live in urbanized societies like ours. Decisions taken in the course of development control have a long-term impact. At another level, however, the development control process serves as a focus for a whole range of questions about how we govern ourselves and on whom we confer power to take decisions on our behalf. (Booth 1996: 1 and 2)


Most forms of development (as statutorily defined) are subject to the prior approval of the local planning authority, though certain categories are excluded from control because they are thought to be trivial or beneficial. Local planning authorities have considerable discretion in giving approval. The legislation requires them to ‘have regard to the provisions of the development plan, so far as material to the application’, but also to ‘any other material considerations’. Thus the authority can approve a proposal that does not accord with the provisions of the plan. The 1991 Act also increased the significance of plans, such that the plan becomes the first and primary point of reference in decision-making, effectively introducing a presumption in favour of development proposals which are in accordance with the development plan. Planning decisions of a local planning authority (LPA) are of three kinds: unconditional permission, permission subject to conditions, or refusal. The practical scope of these powers is discussed in a later section; here it is necessary merely to stress that an applicant has the right of appeal to the Secretary

of State against conditional permissions and refusals. If the action of the LPA is thought to be ultra vires (beyond its legal powers), there is also a right of recourse to the courts. Furthermore, planning applications which raise issues that are of more than local importance, or are of a particular technical nature, can be ‘called in’ for decision by the Secretary of State. The general development control process in England is illustrated in Figure 5.1. Readers should be aware that this is only a general guide and reference should be made to the reading listed at the end of this chapter on matters of detail. Development control necessarily involves measures for enforcement. This is provided by procedures which require anyone who carries out development without permission or in breach of conditions to consult with the LPA and, in certain circumstances, to ‘undo’ the development, even if this involves the demolition of a new building. A stop notice can also be used to put a rapid end to the carrying out or continuation of development which is in breach of planning control, when serious environmental problems are being caused by the unauthorised activity. These are very strong powers, and it is clearly


important to establish the meaning of development, particularly since the term has a legal connotation far wider than its use in ordinary language.


In brief, development is ‘the carrying out of building, engineering, mining or other operations in, on, over or under land, or the making of any material change in the use of any buildings or other land’ (and, since the 1991 Act, now covers some categories of demolition and rebuilding). There are many legal niceties attendant upon this definition with which it is fortunately not necessary to deal in the present outline. Some account of the breadth of the definition is, nevertheless, needed. ‘Building operations’, for instance, include rebuilding, structural alterations of or additions to buildings and, somewhat curiously, ‘other operations normally undertaken by a person carrying on business as a builder’; but maintenance, improvement, and alteration works which affect only the interior of the building or which do not materially affect the external appearance of the building are specifically excluded. The second half of the definition introduces a quite different concept: development here means not a physical operation, but a change in the use of a piece of land or a building. To constitute ‘development’, the change has to be material; that is, substantial – a concept which it is clearly difficult to define, and which, indeed, is not defined in the legislation. A change in kind (for example from a house to a shop) is material, but a change in degree is material only if the change is substantial. For instance, the fact that lodgers are taken privately in a family dwellinghouse does not of itself constitute a material change so long as the main use of the house remains that of a private residence. On the other hand, the change from a private residence with lodgers to a declared guest house, boarding house, or private hotel would be material. Difficulties arise with changes of use involving part of a building, with ancillary uses, and with the distinction between a material change of use and a mere interruption.

This is by no means the end of the matter, but enough has been said to show the breadth of the definition of development and the technical complexities to which it can give rise. Reference must, nevertheless, be made to one further matter. Experience has shown that complicated definitions are necessary if adequate development control is to be achieved, but the same tortuous technique can be used to exclude matters over which control is not necessary. First, there are certain matters which are specifically declared not to constitute development (for example, internal alterations to buildings, works of road maintenance, or improvement carried out by a local highway authority within the boundaries of a road). Second, there are others which, though possibly constituting development, are declared not to require planning permission. There is provision for the Secretary of State to make a General Permitted Development Order (GPDO) specifying ‘permitted development rights’ for matters that constitute development but do not require permission because it is effectively granted by the Order. The Use Classes Order (UCO) specifies groups of uses within which a change of use does not constitute development and is therefore permissible. Also, the Secretary of State can make Special Development Orders (SDOs) granting planning permission for specific locations or categories of development.


The Use Classes Order groups all land uses into classes. Table 5.1 shows the use classes in different parts of Britain. Changes within each class do not constitute development and therefore do not need planning permission. Thus, class A1 covers shops used for all or any of a list of ten purposes, including the retail sale of goods (other than hot food); the sale of sandwiches or other cold food for consumption off the premises; for hairdressing; for the direction of funerals; and for the display of goods for sale. Class A3 covers ‘use for the sale of food or drink for consumption on the premises or of hot food for consumption off the premises’. As a result of these classes, a shop can be




Figure 5.1 The Planning Application Process in England



Financial to A1 and professional from A3

Food and drink


General industrial

Storage or distribution





General industrial

to B1 and B8 (max. 235 m2) 5

11 to B1 (max. 235 m2) from B1 or B2 (max. 235 m2)

Storage or distribution

7–10 Special industry groups



to B8 (max. 235 m2) from B2 and B8 (max. 235 m2)

Food and drink


Financial, professional, and other services

to A1 and A2




from A3, A2 if premises have a display window at ground floor level, or for the display or sale of motor vehicles




Light industrial


to 4


to 4 or 11 (max. 235 m2)

to 11

from a betting office or from food or drink; to 1 if has a display window at ground floor level

from a betting office or from food or drink

Development permitted

Storage and to 4 (max. 235 m2) distribution

7–10 Special industrial groups

General industrial


Financial, professional and other services






Northern Ireland (Planning (Use Classes) Order (NI) 1989) (as amended)

to 4 and 11 (max. 235 m2) 5

to 11 (max. 235 m2))

to 1 and 2

to 1

from sale and display of motor vehicles

Development permitted by the Permitted Development Order




Development permitted by the GDPO (which may be subject to limitations)

Scotland (The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Scotland) Order 1989) (SI N. 147) (as amended)

England and Wales (Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987) (SI No. 764) (as amended)

Table 5.1 Summary and Comparison of the Use Classes Orders

Residential institutions


Nonresidential institutions

Assembly and leisure




Assembly and leisure

Nonresidential institutions


Residential institutions

Note: The sub-division of residential dwellings into two or more separate dwellings is a change of use





Hotels and hostels (not including public houses)



Hotels, boarding houses, and guest houses


Development permitted by the Permitted Development Order




Development permitted by the GDPO (which may be subject to limitations)

Scotland (The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Scotland) Order 1989) (SI N. 147) (as amended)

England and Wales (Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987) (SI No. 764) (as amended)

Table 5.1 continued







Assembly and leisure

Nonresidential institutions

Dwelling houses

Residential institutions

to 14

Guest houses to 14 and hostels

Development permitted

Northern Ireland (Planning (Use Classes) Order (NI) 1989) (as amended)



changed from a hairdresser to a funeral parlour or a sweetshop (or vice versa), but it cannot be changed (unless planning permission is obtained) to a restaurant or a hot food take-away, which is in a different class. The classes, it should be stressed, refer only to changes of use, not to any building work, and the Order gives no freedom to change from one class to another. Whether such a change constitutes development depends on whether the change is ‘material’. The General Permitted Development Order gives the developer a little more freedom by listing classes of ‘permitted development’ – or, to be more precise, it gives advance general permission for certain classes of development, typically of a minor character.1 If a proposed development falls within these classes, no application for planning permission is necessary: the GPDO itself constitutes the permission. The Order includes minor alterations to residential buildings, and the erection of certain agricultural buildings (other than dwelling-houses). A summary of permitted development rights is given in Box 5.1. The GPDO also permits certain changes of use within the UCO, such as a change from an A3 use (the food and drink class) to an A1 use (shop), but not – because of the possible environmental implications – the other way round. While the use changes allowed by the UCO are all ‘bilateral’ (any change of use within a class is reversible without constituting development), the GPDO builds upon this structure by specifying a number of ‘unilateral’ changes between classes for which permission is not required. The rationale here is that the permitted changes generally constitute an environmental improvement. The rights given by the GPDO can be withdrawn by Article 4 directions and conditions on planning permissions (discussed on p. 128). The cynic may be forgiven perhaps for commenting that the freedom given by the UCO and the GPDO is so hedged by restrictions, and frequently so difficult to comprehend, that it would be safer to assume that any operation constitutes development and requires planning permission (though it may be noted with relief that painting is not normally subject to control, unless it is ‘for purpose of advertisement, announcement or direction’). The legislators have been helpful here. Application can be made to the LPA for a

certificate of lawfulness of a proposed use or development (CLOPUD). This enables a developer to ascertain whether or not planning permission is required. The Orders were modified by the Conservative government of 1979–97 as part of its policy of ‘lifting the burden’ on business. Some of the changes have proved to be very controversial. For example, it is now allowable to change a restaurant to a fast hot-food takeaway, or to change a public house to more profitable uses such as professional offices and other uses appropriate to a shopping area. The impact of these changes on such matters as local amenity and traffic generation is detailed in a 1992 report by Sandra Bell for the London Boroughs Association (LBA). The government response to the representations of local government is set out in the report: it is maintained that ‘the advantages of the present arrangements in terms of the certainty and flexibility they provide for the commercial sector, and the reduction in intervention and bureaucracy, far outweigh the disadvantages’. A clearer illustration of the political nature of planning would be difficult to find (though more persuasive are the photographs in the LBA report depicting the detrimental effects of ‘change of use’).


Development control operates in a similar way across the whole of the UK, although it is established by separate law and policy in Northern Ireland and Scotland, and there is a separate ‘national’ policy context in Wales. A comparison of the Use Classes Orders shows minor variations of the kind that exist in other parts of the system. The most important difference is that in Northern Ireland development control is operated by the Planning Service, an executive agency of the Department of Environment for Northern Ireland, which operates through six divisional planning offices. Local authorities in Northern Ireland have only a consultative role, and planning applications are made to the Department (Trimbos 1997). The Planning Service makes recom-



Permitted development rights are granted by the General Permitted Development Order 1995 (GPDO). The Order grants planning permission for certain minor forms of development which are listed in Schedule 2. The permissions can be withdrawn by Article 4 directions or conditions attached to planning permissions. The application of the Order is complex and this is only a brief summary. • Development within the cartilage of a dwelling house, limited to 10 per cent of the cubic content of terraced houses and 15 per cent of detached houses, and an overall maximum of 115 m3 • Minor operations such as painting and erection of walls and fences but not over 2m in height • Temporary buildings and uses in connection with construction, and temporary mineral exploration works • Caravan sites for seasonal and agricultural work

mendations to the local district councils, which can request the Service to reconsider. The Service may reconsider the application but, if there is no agreement, the matter is referred to the Chief Executive’s Office and a decision is made by the Management Board (senior civil servants). Appeals in Northern Ireland are heard by the Planning Appeals Commission; this is an independent body whose members are appointed by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The Commission also hears inquiries into major planning applications and development plans. The provisions of the 1991 Planning and Compensation Act (which have made important changes to the procedure for enforcement, the control of demolition, and the relationship between plans and decisions) have not been implemented in Northern Ireland. Another variation is in neighbour notification, where Northern Ireland has had a more thorough system. This is guided by a non-statutory notification scheme requiring, for example, advertisement of all applications.

• Agricultural and forestry buildings and operations (although the local planning authority must be notified in certain circumstances) • Extension of industrial and warehouse development up to 25 per cent of the cubic content of the original building • Repairs to private driveways and services provided by statutory undertakers and local authorities (including sewerage, drainage, postboxes), maintenance and improvement works to highways by the highway authority • Limited development by the local authority such as bus shelters and street furniture • Certain telecommunications apparatus not exceeding 15 m height, and closed circuit television cameras, subject to limitations • Restoration of historic buildings and monuments • Limited demolition works

Scotland’s legislation also differs in this respect, and requires the applicant (rather than the local authority) to serve notices on neighbours. Neighbour notification is discussed further in Chapter 12.


While the GPDO is applicable generally, special development orders (SDOs) relate to particular areas or particular types of development. SDOs (like other Orders) are subject to parliamentary debate and annulment by resolution of either House. They have provided an opportunity for testing opinion on controversial proposals such as the reprocessing of nuclear fuels at Windscale, but most of the nineteen SDOs made in England and Wales were to facilitate the operation of UDCs. In these cases the order granted permission for development that was proposed by the corporations and approved by the Secretary of State.




The use of the SDO procedure raises considerable controversy since it involves a high degree of central involvement in local planning decisions. One very contentious case was the granting of permission for over a million square feet of offices and homes at the eastern end of Vauxhall Bridge in London. At that time the DoE said that ‘the purpose of making fuller use of SDOs would not be to make any general relaxation in development control, but to stimulate planned development in acceptable locations, and speed up the planning process’ (Thornley 1993: 163). In practice, central government has not made use of the orders in recent years and has instead opted for other means to shape major decisions.


The development rights that are permitted by the GPDO can be withdrawn by a Direction made under Article 4 of the Order (and hence known as Article 4 Directions). The effect of such a direction is not to prohibit development, but to require that a planning application is made for development proposals in a particular location. The direction can apply either to a particular area (such as a conservation area) or, unusually, to a particular type of development (such as caravan sites) throughout a local authority area. Since the direction involves taking away a legal right, compensation may be payable. Article 4 Directions should be made only in exceptional circumstances and where there is ‘a real and specific threat’.2 The most common use of an Article 4 Direction is in areas where special protection is considered desirable, as with a dwelling-house in a rural area of exceptional beauty, a national park, or a conservation area. Without the direction, an extension of the house would be permitted up to the limits specified in the GPDO. The majority of Article 4 Directions in fact relate to ‘householder’ rights in conservation areas. They are also used in national parks and other designated areas to control temporary uses of land (such as camping and caravanning) which would otherwise be permitted (Roger Tym & Partners 1995a).


All planning authorities provide guides on the planning application process and readers should make reference to them for the finer points. For many minor applications it is a straightforward process, but in some cases it can become very complex. Figure 5.1 gives an overview of the process in England, and it is much the same elsewhere. Many applications will begin with pre-application discussions with the local authority. It is especially important for the local authority to ensure that the application is complete and meets its requirements so that there is minimum delay in processing. On receipt of the application and fee the authority will acknowledge receipt and begin publicity, notification, and consultation procedures, all of which will vary depending on the type of application. Many applications will require other consents from the authority and other agencies, notably building regulations approval, and these may be coordinated by the authority in the ‘one-stop shop approach’, as discussed on p. 152. The extent and type of public involvement in the application and appeal procedure are reviewed in Chapter 12. On the basis of consultation returns, the relevance of national and local policies, previous decisions, and a site visit, the planning officer will make a report to the planning committee with a recommendation on the decision to be made.3 This report, along with the committee agenda and minutes and consultation returns, are public documents. The applicant may be able to make a presentation to committee but this is at the discretion of the authority. Decision notices are sent to the applicant, who can appeal against refusal or conditions imposed. Most applications in many authorities will be decided by the planning officer under delegated powers, subject to meeting criteria such as the application being in accordance with development plan policies and below certain thresholds. When elected members consider applications they may not always agree with officers and there are some celebrated cases where members have decided applications against the advice of their officers, such as the cases of Ceredigion and North Cornwall.4 This is


one category of cases that has led to planning authorities’ decisions being subject to judicial review (discussed on p. 47). More complex applications will require negotiations between the applicant or agent and the authority. The officer will be seeking to ensure that the application meets policy and will be working from past experience of committee decisions. The discretionary nature of the British planning system allows for negotiation prior to the final decision. In theory this offers scope to ensure that the final development is closer to meeting the needs of all parties, so long as officers and applicant recognise the benefits of negotiation to achieve better outcomes (Claydon 1998). In practice it appears that local authority officers are less prepared to make good use of the opportunity of negotiation than developers (Claydon and Smith 1997). In complicated cases it is sometimes convenient for an applicant or the LPA (or both) to deal with an application in outline. Outline planning permission gives the applicant permission in principle to carry out development subject to reserved matters which will be decided at a later stage. This is a useful device to enable a developer to proceed with the preparation of detailed plans with the security that they will be not be opposed in principle. In a few cases there will need to be an environmental impact assessment – the procedures for which are described in Chapter 7.


Crucial to the development control process is the concept of material considerations. These are exactly what the term suggests: considerations that are material to the taking of a development control decision. The primary consideration is the development plan.5 The 1990 Act states that ‘where in making any determination under the planning Acts regard is to be had to the development plan, the determination shall be made in accordance with the plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise’ (s. 54A). The introduction of these words in section 54A of

the Act signalled the government’s intention to move to a plan-led system of development control.6 This may sound strange to those new to planning, and it may be appropriate to ask if there can be any other sort of planning system. But the status of the plan in development control prior to 1991 was more ambiguous and most of the country did not have a local plan in place (as explained in Chapter 4). The implications of s. 54A have been the subject of much debate. In the light of experience, government has clarified the official meaning in the revisions of PPG 1 in 1992 and 1997. The current guidance is given in Box 5.2. Section 54A certainly had a major impact on the planning system. There is much more emphasis on the


The Government is committed to a plan-led system of development control. This is given statutory force by section 54A of the 1990 Act. Where an adopted or approved development plan contains relevant policies, section 54A requires that an application for planning permission or an appeal shall be determined in accordance with the plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise. Conversely, applications which are not in accordance with relevant policies in the plan should not be allowed unless material considerations justify granting a planning permission. Those deciding such planning applications or appeals should always take into account whether the proposed development would cause demonstrable harm to an interest of acknowledged importance. In all cases where the development plan is relevant, it will be necessary to decide whether the proposal is in accordance with the plan and then to take into account other material considerations. Source: Planning Policy Guidance Note 1 (1997: para. 40)




development plan, and the parallel requirement for the preparation of statutory local plans as well as UDPs or structure plans for all areas has attempted to ensure that there is an adequate framework of policy against which to test applications. Planning committee reports now tend to emphasise more strongly the relevant policies of the development plan in relation to each application. The ‘presumption in favour of development’ dating back to the beginnings of planning control (M. Harrison 1992) has effectively been changed to a presumption in favour of the development plan, or more accurately, in the words of Malcolm Grant (1997), it is if anything, a presumption in favour of development that accords with the plan; and a presumption against development that does not. In each case, the development plan is the starting point, and its provisions prevail until material considerations indicate otherwise. (Encyclopedia P54A.07; emphasis in original)

But in most cases other material considerations will also play a part in the decision, and this has always been the case. Whether or not other material considerations outweigh the development plan is a matter of judgement for the decision-makers.7 Even with much more comprehensive plan coverage, many issues raised by planning applications will not be addressed in policy, and there is a limit to which governments at any level can, or wish to, commit policies to paper. The more this is done, the more inflexible will planning become, the less will it be able to adapt to changing circumstances, the greater is the likelihood of conflict between policies, and the more confusing the situation will be. The merit of the British development control system is the discretion given to decision-makers at the point of considering a planning application. Thus it has flexibility and adaptability to differing and changing situations.8 Legal niceties aside, how do planning authorities actually decide planning applications? What if there is no adopted local plan (which in 1999 was still the case for one-third of all planning authorities)? What if the local plan does not address an issue raised by a planning application? Since the early 1980s there has

been a blossoming of research which considerably increases our understanding of how this part of the machinery of planning works. Findings from research in the 1980s on the role of development plans is still relevant. Davies et al. (1986a) found from a major review of decisions that development plans were used in development control, but that many considerations were not covered by the plans. Even when there were relevant policies, they were typically expressed in general terms and needed ‘translation’ into operational terms for each development application. Non-statutory documents, including development control policy notes, design guides, development briefs, informal local plans, and ‘policy frameworks’, were also important. With some caveats, notably the more comprehensive nature of many plans in the 1990s, these findings are probably no less valid today. The same authors also examined the role of plans in appeals. This revealed that ‘one third of all appeal decision letters contained no mention of policy, national or local, statutory or non-statutory’, but these included a high proportion of the householder appeals and comparatively few major proposals. By contrast, two-thirds of the appeal decision letters referred to some form of policy, and in these cases the policy usually became the main determinant of the outcome of the appeal: a high proportion were rejected. ‘Inspectors nearly always dismissed appeals, and supported the local authority, on proposals for which there was relevant cover in the development plan.’ On the other hand, they ‘more often allowed appeals which turned on practical appeal considerations lacking firm local policy coverage, but in which national policies were invoked in favour of the appellant’. There is an important message here: where there is an articulated policy which can clearly be applied to a case, development control and appeal decisions tend to abide by it – and this was well before the term ‘plan-led system’ was coined. It suggests that the mandatory requirement for local plan policy is more important than the introduction of s. 54A.


Since planning is concerned with the use of land, purely personal considerations are not generally material (though they might become so in a finely balanced case). The courts have held that a very wide range of matters can be material. Indeed, in the oft-quoted Stringer case, it was stated that ‘any consideration which relates to the use and development of land is capable of being a planning consideration’ (Stringer v. Minister of Housing and Local Government 1971). Whether a particular consideration falling within that broad class in any given case is material will depend on the circumstances. In another important case (Newbury), the House of Lords formulated a threefold ‘planning test’: to be valid, a planning decision had (i) to have a planning purpose; (ii) to relate to the permitted development; and (iii) to be reasonable (Newbury District Council v. Secretary of State for the Environment 1981). These and similar judicial statements provide only the flimsiest of guidelines, and a succession of cases have shown that the issues are legion. The list of possible considerations begins with the siting and appearance of the proposed buildings; the suitability of the site and its accessibility; relationship to traffic and infrastructure provision; landscaping; and the impact on neighbouring land and property. But many other matters may be relevant: environmental impacts; the historical and aesthetic nature of the site; economic and social benefits of the development; considerations of energy and ‘sustainable development’; impact on small businesses; previous appeal decisions; the loss of an existing use; whether the development is likely to be carried out; and, in a few cases, financial considerations, including the personal circumstances of occupiers. Whether or not any of these considerations is material depends on the circumstances of each case. Very few considerations have been held by the courts to be immaterial but ones that have include the absence of provision for planning gain; and to make lawful something that is unlawful (Moore 2000: 206).9 Given this wide range of possibilities, one looks to

‘planning guidance’ for a lead. Circulars and planning policy guidance notes (and their equivalents) are always material considerations in making planning decisions. Although they have no formal statutory force, the local planning authority must have regard to them. Where the local authority does not follow national guidance it must give ‘clear and convincing reasons’.10 Changes to national policy that post-date the development plan are particularly important, as in the case of the revisions to PPG 3, Housing, made in 2000. Government policy is helpful where there are special requirements. For example, for out-of-town shopping centres it is explicitly advised (in PPG 6, para. 1.16) that ‘key considerations should be applied’, including the likely impact of the development on the vitality and viability of existing town centres . . . their accessibility by a choice of means of transport; and their ‘likely effect on overall travel patterns and car use’. But for many topics guidance can be found to justify alternative positions. Also, planning law is not neatly codified: it lies all over the place, and is not limited to circulars and guidance notes. As long as a minister has stated a policy somewhere, it seems that it is acceptable as a material consideration: ‘The courts have accepted that policies should take into account white papers, circulars, policy guidance, previous decisions, written parliamentary answers, and even after dinner speeches. There is an increasing tendency to announce policy at professional conferences’ (Read and Wood 1994: 13). In short, there are few limits to the matters which can be regarded as material to a planning decision, and few clear (but many unclear) guidelines. Two considerations warrant further discussion: the design and appearance of development, and amenity.


Much of the built heritage is worth preserving because it is well designed. It is therefore of more than contemporary concern that new buildings should be well designed. Nevertheless, the extent to which ‘good’ design can be fostered by the planning system (or any other system) is problematic.




Good design is an elusive quality which cannot easily be defined. In Holford’s words (1953), design cannot be taught by correspondence; words are inadequate, and being inadequate may then become misleading, or even dangerous. For the competent designer a handbook on design is unnecessary, and for the incompetent it is almost useless as a medium of instruction.

Yet local authorities have to pass judgement on the design merits of thousands of planning proposals each year, and there is continuous pressure from professional bodies for higher design standards to be imposed. There is a long and inconclusive history to design control (well set out by John Punter, in various publications from 1985). A 1959 statement by the MHLG stressed that it was impossible to lay down rules to define good design. Developers were recommended to seek the advice of an architect (presumably a good one!). The policy should be to avoid stifling initiative or experiment in design, but ‘shoddy or badly proportioned or out of place designs’ should be rejected – with clear reasons being given. The reader is referred to Punter’s work for the fascinating details of the continuing story, recounting the personal achievements of Duncan Sandys, particularly in founding the Civic Trust in 1957, and later in promoting the Civic Amenities Act; the high buildings controversy (‘sunlight equals health’); the problem of protecting views of St Paul’s Cathedral; the arguments over the Shell Tower (which prompted the quip that the best view of the Shell Tower was to be obtained from its roof); the publication of Worskett’s The Character of Towns (1969); the unpublished Matthew-Skillington report, ‘Promotion of high standards of architectural design’, which led to the appointment of a Chief Architect in the Property Services Agency; the property boom and a spate of books bearing titles such as The Rape of Britain (Amery and Cruikshank 1975) and The Sack of Bath (Fergusson 1973); the Essex Design Guide for Residential Areas (1973) – ‘the most influential local planning authority publication ever’; the attempt (in 1978) to prevent the building of the National Westminster Tower; and so on.

New contexts emerged with the return of a Conservative government in 1979, and there was the unprincely attack in 1984 by Prince Charles on the ‘monstrous carbuncle’ of the proposed extension to the National Gallery and the ‘giant glass stump’ of the Mies van der Rohe office block adjacent to the Mansion House (described by one architect – who will not be named – as a building which would be ‘unsurpassed in elegance and economy of form’). The Prince followed up his criticisms with A Vision of Britain (1989): ‘a personal view of architecture’ spelling out, with telling illustrations, how ‘we can do better’. In his case study of office development control in Reading, Punter demonstrates the interesting point that it is only since the late 1970s that the local authority ‘have begun to influence the full aesthetic impact of office buildings, though they have controlled height, floorspace and functional considerations since 1947’. Moreover: Aesthetic considerations do not operate in a vacuum: they are merely one set of considerations amongst many in deciding whether a development gets planning permission. In the case of office development, despite its visual impact, the control of floorspace and the provision of associated facilities and land uses have been higher order goals in Reading. . . . Aesthetic considerations are inevitably the first to be sacrificed in the cause of ‘speed and efficiency’ in decision-making, by clients, developers, architects and planners . . . There is a lack of design and architectural skills within the control section of the planning authority, but while its presence would strengthen the planning effort, its scope would be severely constrained by wider policy constraints, by general manpower shortages and, most of all perhaps, by the relevant circulars and the appeal process.11

The Conservative administration of 1979 started off with a strong bias against design controls, and the views of the Secretary of State (Michael Heseltine), which had been expressed at the Town and Country Planning Summer School, were reproduced in (the now withdrawn) DoE Circular 22/80: Far too many of those involved in the system – whether the planning officer or the amateur on the planning committee – have tried to impose their standards quite unnecessarily on what individuals want to do. . . . Democracy as a system of government I will defend

THE CONTROL OF DEVELOPMENT against all comers, but as an arbiter of taste or as a judge of aesthetic or artistic standards it falls short of a far less controlled system of individual, corporate or institutional patronage and initiative.

Mr Heseltine may have been expressing a strong personal view here, but the official policy clearly reflected it.12 The 1992 version of PPG 1 included an annex on design control (based on a draft prepared jointly by the RIBA and RTPI) and tried to square the circle by advising that, on the one hand, ‘the appearance of a proposed development and its relationship to its surroundings are material considerations’ but, on the other, that good design ‘is primarily the responsibility of designers and their client’. ‘Planning authorities should reject obviously poor designs’ but [they] ‘should not impose their taste on applicants for planning permission simply because they believe it to be superior’. Current guidance in the 1997 PPG 1 includes much the same mixture of statements stressing the importance of good design, supporting the role of design professionals, and accepting the need for planning intervention, if only in limited circumstances. But the balance has swung in favour of intervention. More is made of the role of the development plan and supplementary planning guidance (if subject to public consultation) in justifying control ‘to promote or reinforce local distinctiveness’, but ‘local planning authorities should not concern themselves with matters of detailed design, except where such matters have a significant effect on the character or quality of an area’ (para. 18). There is more than a hint of the government trying to please everyone here. Meanwhile, public outcry over the poor quality of much that passes for urban design continues, including the relatively weak contribution to sustainable development. A large number of public, private, and voluntary bodies have joined in the call for improved standards of design. An Urban Design Campaign, spearheaded by the enthusiastic John Gummer, Secretary of State for the Environment, had a high profile during his term of office,13 though it is only one of many attempts to arouse a greater awareness of, and concern for, design issues. Others include design advice issued by government departments and local authorities, the CPRE’s Local Attraction campaign, and the efforts of

bodies ranging from the Countryside Commission and the Royal Fine Art Commission and Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, to Common Ground, and the interesting discussion on the concept of ‘local distinctiveness’. Some very attractive publications have emerged as a result of this interest. Whether there has been a parallel emergence of better-designed buildings is an open question. The latest attempt to improve practice comes from the DETR’s own By Design: Urban Design in the Planning System – Towards Better Practice. In view of the mixed messages in PPG 1, how frustrating it must be for local authority planners and design professionals to read in the first paragraph of this report that ‘Everything hangs on how well a local authority draws up, and then uses, the tools it has available to foster better urban design.’ Many of the more difficult decisions are made by inspectors. Durrant’s (2000) explanation of the reasoning that an inspector makes in cases of dispute over quality of design reveals the very subjective nature of the task – in his case including an example of allowing a twenty-storey ‘glass mountain’ adjacent to a grade 1 listed parish church on the south bank of the Thames at Battersea. Durrant argues that the reasoning process has two principal components: the context (both aesthetic and functional) and the scale of buildings; but at the appeal stage the options available to the inspector decision are really only yes or no. It must be in the development process that most improvements can be made to the quality of proposals. Recent government statements are therefore welcome in that they are directed equally to developers: We are not going to beat about the bush. When applying for planning permission, house builders will have to demonstrate to local planning authorities how they have taken the need for good design into account. The point is that good urban design is not just about aesthetics. It concerns the quality of life people experience. For example, it can help prevent crime and the fear of crime. It can help create a sense of community. It is not trite to say that good urban design helps make good places and satisfied people. It will help us put land to better use, because wasting land in the towns means more land lost in the countryside. (The Minister for Housing and Planning, Nick Raynsford, in a speech to the House Builders Federation, 27 January 2000)




Although the statement is welcome, it should be noted that good design is a necessary but not sufficient condition in achieving the minister’s wider aspirations. Findings from Alice Coleman’s Design Improvement Controlled Experiment should temper design ambitions. This experiment began in 1989 and concerned the radical improvement to the design of local authority housing estates. Design improvements were made to seven estates, including replacing open courtyards with more private gardens and removing overhead walkways. The design improvements may have been welcome in themselves, but an evaluation by Price Waterhouse published in 1997 found that the social and sustainability objectives were not met. Indeed, this sort of investment performed less well than Estate Action.14 Nevertheless, for Punter, ‘design issues occupy a more important position in contemporary planning practice today than at any stage over the last 50 years’ (1999: 151). Carmona’s survey of residential design guidance (1998 and 1999) shows that most authorities are making efforts to improve the quality of design, although practice ‘remains varied in the extreme’. About half of all planning authorities have at least three forms of design guidance, often linked in hierarchical fashion from strategic through local to site specific. ‘Together, the evidence illustrates a strong belief in the value of pre-conceived prescription as the basis for controlling residential design, but tremendous variety – and therefore inconsistency – in the chosen approaches used to prescribe that design’ (Carmona 1999: 36). More disappointing are the attempts to achieve more sustainable solutions in residential development (only 4 per cent in Carmona’s survey), with most authorities using only easily measurable design criteria, repeating national guidance, or concentrating on the impacts of the car.


‘Amenity’ is one of the key concepts in British town and country planning: yet nowhere in the legislation is it defined. The legislation merely states that ‘if it

appears to a local planning authority that it is expedient in the interests of amenity’, the authority may take certain action, in relation, for example, to unsightly neglected waste land or to the preservation of trees. It is also one of the factors that may need to be taken into account in controlling advertisements and in determining whether a discontinuance order should be made. It is a term widely used in planning refusals and appeals: indeed, the phrase ‘injurious to the interests of amenity’ has become part of the stockin-trade jargon of the planning world. But like the proverbial elephant, amenity is easier to recognise than to define, and there is considerable scope for disagreement on the degree and importance of amenities: which amenities should be preserved, in what way they should be preserved, and how much expense (public or private) is justified. The problem is relatively straightforward in so far as trees are concerned. It is much more acute, for example, in connection with electricity pylons, yet the electricity generating and supply companies are specifically charged not only with maintaining an efficient and coordinated supply of electricity but also with the preservation of amenity. Here the question is not merely one of sensitivity but also of the additional cost of preserving amenities by placing cables underground. Apart from problems of cost, there is the problem of determining how much control the public will accept. Poor architecture, ill-conceived schemes, and mock-Tudor frontages may upset the planning officer, but how much regulation of this type of ‘amenityinjury’ will be publicly acceptable? And how far can negative controls succeed in raising public standards? Here emphasis has been laid on design bulletins, design awards, and such ventures as those of the Civic Trust, a body whose object is ‘to promote beauty and fight ugliness in town, village and countryside’. Nevertheless, LPAs have power not only to prevent developments which would clash with amenity (for example, the siting of a repair garage in a residential area) but also to reject badly designed developments which are not intrinsically harmful. Indeed, outline planning permission for a proposal is often given on the condition that detailed plans and appearances meet the approval of the authority.


A local planning authority can grant planning permission subject to conditions, and almost all permissions are conditional. This can be a very useful way of permitting development which would otherwise be undesirable. Many conditions are simple, requiring, for example, that materials to be used are agreed with the local authority before development starts. But there are many more complex permutations. Thus a service garage may be approved in a residential area on condition that the hours of business are limited. Residential development may be permitted on condition that landscape works are carried out in accordance with submitted plans and before the houses are occupied. Office development may be permitted subject to means of access for people with disabilities being agreed with the local authority, and so on. The power to impose conditions is a very wide one. The legislation allows LPAs to grant permission subject to ‘such conditions as they think fit’. However, this does not mean ‘as they please’. The conditions must be appropriate from a planning point of view: the planning authority are not at liberty to use their power for an ulterior object, however desirable that object may seem to them to be in the public interest. If they mistake or misuse their powers, however bona fide, the court can interfere by declaration and injunction. (Pyx Granite Co Ltd v. Minister of Housing and Local Government 1981)

DoE Circular 11/95, The Use of Conditions in Planning Permissions,15 stresses (in para. 2) that If used properly, conditions can enhance the quality of development and enable many development proposals to proceed where it would otherwise have been necessary to refuse planning permission. The objectives of planning, however, are best served when that power is exercised in such a way that conditions are clearly seen to be fair, reasonable and practicable.

As might be expected, there is considerable debate on the meaning of these terms. Circular 11/9516 elaborates specifically on the meaning of six tests: conditions should be necessary; relevant to planning; relevant to the development to be permitted; enforceable; precise; and reasonable in all other respects. Numerous court

judgements provide guidance on how the tests should be applied. For a development to meet the test of being necessary, the local authority should ask whether permission would be refused if the condition were not imposed. Relevance to planning and to the development may be difficult to judge. Though planning conditions should not be used where they duplicate other controls such as those of pollution control, they may be needed if the other method of regulation does not secure planning objectives. Conditions should not be imposed on one site to seek to improve conditions on a neighbouring site – for example, where existing car parking is insufficient. But it may be appropriate to impose conditions to address problems elsewhere as a result of the new development – for example, increasing congestion on another part of the site. In any event, it is permissible to impose conditions only on the use of land under the control of the applicant. The enforceability test requires that the local planning authority should be able to monitor and detect whether the applicant is complying with it. Enforceability is also closely related to precision in drafting of the condition. Both the authority and the applicant need to be able to understand exactly what is required by a condition. An appendix to the Circular gives numerous examples of how conditions should be drafted so as to avoid vagueness and ensure clarity. The reasonableness test requires that the condition is not unduly restrictive. In particular, it should not nullify the benefit of the permission. A condition may also be unreasonable if it is not within the powers of the applicant to implement it, for example where it relates to land in the ownership of a third party. A striking example of a condition which was quite unreasonable was dealt with in the Newbury case. There the district council gave permission for the use of two former aircraft hangars for storage, subject to the condition that they be demolished after a period of ten years. The House of Lords held that since there was no connection between the proposed use and the condition, it was ultra vires. In granting permission for development at Aberdeen Airport the planning authority sought to impose a number of conditions to minimise the impact on the local area. One condition restricted the direction of take-off and landing of




aircraft, but this was found to be both unreasonable and unnecessary since the Civil Aviation Authority (and not the airport) controls flight paths (McAllister and McMaster 1994: 136–7). Up to 1968, conditions were also imposed to give a time limit within which development had to take place. The 1968 Act, however, made all planning permissions subject to a condition that development is commenced within five years. If the work is not begun within this time limit, the permission lapses. However, the Secretary of State or the local planning authority can vary the period, and there is no bar to the renewal of permission after that period has elapsed (whether it be more or less than five years). The purpose of this provision is to prevent the accumulation of unused permissions and to discourage the speculative land hoarder. Accumulated unused permissions could constitute a difficult problem for some LPAs: they create uncertainty and could make an authority reluctant to grant further permissions, which might result in, for example, too great a strain on public services.17 The provision relates, however, only to the beginning of development, and this has in the past been deemed to include digging a trench or putting a peg in the ground.18 As well as imposing conditions, the local authority may also reach agreement with the developer about planning obligations or ‘planning gain’, where the developer pays for related works without which planning permission could not be granted. Agreements typically cover the provision of infrastructure such as traffic management and access, public open spaces, and other improvements as ‘compensation’ for loss through development, a proportion of affordable housing in residential schemes, and even commuted payments to support public transport serving the development. The government emphasises that planning conditions should be used in preference to planning obligations, but for planning authorities the obligations are more important in larger-scale developments. A fuller explanation of obligations is given in Chapter 6. Here it should be noted that planning conditions should not duplicate obligations, and permission cannot be granted on condition that an obligation is entered into. While a developer can appeal against planning

conditions, there is no such possibility for obligations which are entered into ‘voluntarily’.


Fees for planning applications were introduced in 1980. This represented a marked break with planning traditions, which had held (at least implicitly) that development control is of general communal benefit and directly analogous to other forms of public control for which no charges are made to individuals. The Thatcher administration had a very different view; to quote from the parliamentary debate: We do not believe that the community as a whole should continue to pay for all sorts of things that it has paid for in the past. . . . In the general review that has taken place to see where we can reduce spending from the public purse . . . we came to the conclusion that the cost of development control was an area where some part of the cost should be recovered.

The 1980 Bill provided additionally for fees for appeals but this provision was dropped in the face of widespread objections from both sides of the House. The current regulations were made in 1989 and amended in 1991 and 1992. The fee structure is subject to change over time, and a detailed schedule is therefore not appropriate.19 The government’s ultimate aim is to recover the full administrative costs of dealing with planning applications. The power to charge fees for planning applications does not extend to the pre-application discussion stage. A decision of the Court of Appeal allowing such charges was reversed by the House of Lords in 1991.


An unsuccessful planning applicant can appeal to the Secretary of State, and a large number do so. Appeals are allowed on the refusal of planning permission, against conditions attached to a permission, where a planning authority has failed to give a decision within the prescribed period, on enforcement notices, and on


Figure 5.2 Planning Applications, Appeals and Decisions in England 1981–82 to 1999–2000

other matters as discussed below. Appeals decided during 1998/99 (England and Wales) numbered 12,877, of which about a third were allowed. Figure 5.2 illustrates trends in the number of appeals. Although (in England) the appeal is made to the Secretary of State, the vast majority of appeals are considered by inspectors ‘standing in the Secretary of State’s shoes’. The same applies in the other countries of the UK, but the Welsh Assembly is so far unique in establishing a cross-party Planning Decision Committee with four members to make the final decision on important appeals and called-in applications (see p. 51).20 Until 1969 the ministry responsible for planning dealt with all appeals.21 In view of increasing

delay in reaching decisions and the huge administrative burden, the 1968 Planning Act introduced a system whereby decisions on certain classes of appeal were ‘transferred’ to professional planning inspectors who had previously only made recommendations to the minister. Over time the range of decisions transferred to inspectors has been extended such that virtually all are now decided by the Planning Inspectorate. Matters of major importance may be ‘recovered’ for determination by the Secretary of State. In fact, fewer than 1 per cent of all appeals are recovered, although it can be argued that the significance is much greater than the figure suggests. Even where decisions are recovered, it is the senior civil




servants in the Department rather than the minister who make most decisions.22 Wide powers are available to the Secretary of State and inspectors. These include the reversal of a local authority’s decision or the addition, deletion, or modification of conditions. The conditions can be made more onerous or, in an extreme case, the Secretary of State may even go to the extent of refusing planning permission altogether if it is decided that the local authority should not have granted it with the conditions imposed. Before reaching any decision, the inspector or Secretary of State needs to consider the evidence, and this can be done in three ways: by inquiry, hearing, or written representation. Most appeals are considered by written representation with 73.1 per cent of all planning appeals in England in 1998–99 falling into this category, while hearings account for 19.1 per cent and inquiries 7.8 per cent. The procedures are governed by the rules of natural justice and by inquiry procedure rules which have recently been updated in England.23 Both the applicant and the planning authority have the right to demand a full inquiry if they so wish, but the emphasis over recent years has been to get as many appeals as possible heard by the other two less expensive and time-consuming methods. The efficiency of procedures leading up to and during inquiries has been strongly criticised (Graves et al. 1996; O’Neill 1999).24 Since 1968 the Secretary of State has had power to refer development proposals of a far-reaching or novel character to an ad hoc Planning Inquiry Commission, but this power has never been used. Proposals are in hand for a new approach to dealing with major projects of national significance. These are discussed in Chapter 12 in the context of the history of public involvement in planning through inquiries. In essence, it is proposed to strengthen the national policy context in relation to major projects and to create new parliamentary procedures for approving projects in principle before consideration of the detailed issues through the development control process. Inquiries are adversarial debates conducted through the presentation and questioning (cross-examination) of evidence. The proceedings are managed by

inspectors, but advocates, often barristers, play a dominant role in the proceedings, thus lending a courtroom atmosphere. Such an approach has benefits in safeguarding the principles of open, impartial, and fair consideration of the issues. Nevertheless, it is widely acknowledged as unnecessary for certain less complex appeals, especially where one party is not professionally represented. Thus, the hearing procedure has been created, which proceeds in an inquisitorial way, with the inspector playing an active role in structuring a round-table discussion and asking questions, but with no formal cross-examination. But the most popular and straightforward procedure is through ‘written reps’. Over the years the mechanisms for considering appeals have been streamlined. The substantial increase in the number of appeals in the late 1980s quickly had the effect of slowing down the procedures, ironically at a time when the government was seeking to ‘lift the burden’ of planning regulation. Reviews of the system were undertaken to tackle this embarrassment for government, the first of which was completed in 1985 and published together with an ‘action plan’ in 1986. Rules were introduced to govern the written representation procedure in a similar way to the rules for inquiries, which were also strengthened. Further minor changes were made in 1992 and further substantial revisions in 2000, aimed at speeding up the process and to provide statutory rules for the hearings process.25 The rules govern the exchange of information among the parties to the appeal and set a timetable for this to happen. The latest amendments are intended to ensure that the appeal processes follow the predetermined timetable more often than is the case now. Sanctions have been strengthened such that evidence may be disregarded unless it is submitted on time, or in some cases to impose costs on the guilty party (except for written representations). There is a stronger emphasis on the appellant and local authority agreeing the matters in dispute beforehand, keeping evidence concise,26 and inspectors are encouraged to take more control over unnecessary cross-examination. The revisions also include an amendment to the General Developmental Procedures Order (GDPO) requiring


local planning authorities to specify all relevant development plan policies and proposals when refusing permission or imposing conditions, reflecting the increased emphasis placed on development plans providing a firm basis for planning decisions. Evaluations of more informal methods of holding appeals are generally positive (Stubbs 1999, 2000). The appeals procedure is a microcosm of the whole planning system. It is where the system and its policies are challenged and where the most contentious and difficult issues are addressed. It is a ‘pinch point’ of the system. What happens here is critically important for the system as a whole, in terms both of planning policy and how the system should be operated. Although each appeal is considered on its own merits, the cumulative effect is to operationalise policy. It is here that the sometimes vague, sometimes contradictory, messages in government policy must be resolved. The wider effect of appeal decisions may be difficult to assess but clearly they have a very real influence on other decisions made by planning authorities, and are a route for the imposition of central government policy on local authorities. Inspectors pay particular attention to national policy, which is the determining factor in many appeals (Rydin et al. 1990; Wood et al. 1998).27 On the operation of the system, recent discussions on the appeal system give a pointer to the government’s overall philosophy on decision-making in planning, as explained by Shepley (1999: 403). The approach is one which supports the fundamental principles of openness, fairness, and impartiality but also recognises the need to make decisions more quickly, more cheaply, and earlier in the development process. Experiments have been conducted on ‘alternative dispute resolution’ in planning through mediation. The intention is that the ‘win–lose’ style of deciding planning appeals may be replaced with a process that seeks a solution which is acceptable to both parties. Pilot studies involved the Planning Inspectorate providing trained mediators where local authorities suggested cases that might benefit. Evaluation of the pilot found that there is a role for mediation generally for householder applications involving disputes over design or layout. But further use of mediation would bring about only a modest

reduction in appeal cases, and some incentive would be needed to establish more use (Welbank et al. 2000). Perhaps the most important finding was that the current planning application regime was unsuitable for householder applications and an alternative is needed. Another idea under consideration is the ‘environmental court’, which would ‘extend public access to environmental justice’ but also involve far-reaching changes to the system – making for example the Planning Inspectorate part of the machinery of the courts rather than government departments.28 Irrespective of the merits of environmental courts, it is likely that there will have to be some changes to the appeal and enforcement procedures in the light of the 1998 Human Rights Act.


The power to ‘call in’ a planning application for decision by the Secretary of State is quite separate from that of determining an appeal against an adverse decision by a local planning authority. The power is not circumscribed: the Secretary of State may call in any application. During the year 1998–99, 119 applications in England (of 503,000) were called in. There are no statutory criteria or restrictions, and no prescribed procedures for handling representations from the public, although if either the applicant or the local planning authority so desires, the Secretary of State must hold a hearing or public inquiry. The type of issue likely to warrant use of call-in has been clarified in a recent statement to the House of Commons in answer to a written question: His policy is to be very selective about calling in planning applications. He will in general, only take this step if planning issues of more than local importance are involved. Such cases may include, for example, those which, in his opinion: • may conflict with national policies on important matters; • could have significant effects beyond their immediate locality;



TOWN AND COUNTRY PLANNING IN THE UK • give rise to substantial regional or national controversy; • raise significant architectural or urban design issues; or • may involve the interests of national security or of foreign Governments. (Hansard, 16 June 1999, col. 138)

To assist Secretaries of State in making these decisions, all applications for development involving a substantial departure from the provisions of a development plan which the planning authority intends to permit must be sent to the Secretary of State together with a statement of the reasons why it wishes to grant the permission. This procedure enables the Secretary of State to decide whether the development is sufficiently important to warrant its being called in. The Secretary of State also makes directions requiring local authorities to consult with him or her on certain types of application, so that consideration can be given to the use of call-in powers. For example, directions have been made requiring local authorities to consult the Secretary of State on leisure, retail, and office uses over 5,000 square metres and which do not conform to the development plan (reduced in 1999 from 10,000 square metres). There is also now a requirement to consult where the authority intends to grant permission for development of playing fields against the advice of the Sports Council. Further powers are available for directions that prevent a planning authority granting permission for a particular application or a class of application; again this may be used to give the Secretary of State time to consider whether the application should be called in. Certain types of development tend to involve the Secretary of State: new settlements and other very large housing developments, applications involving the green belt, large-scale minerals proposals, and development affecting buildings of national significance are most common. Mineral workings often raise problems of more than local importance, and the national need for particular minerals has to be balanced against planning issues. It is argued that such matters cannot be adequately considered by local planning authorities (which will invariably face massive local opposition), and involve technical considerations requiring expert opinion of a character more easily available to central

government. A large proportion of applications for permission to work minerals have been called in. Furthermore, there is a general direction calling in all applications for the winning and working of ironstone in certain counties where there are large-scale ironstone workings. On important questions of design, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment29 has, in its terms of reference, the power ‘to call the attention of any of our departments of state . . . to any project or development which [it considers] may appear to affect amenities of a national or public character’. Inevitably the Secretary of State has the job of balancing local concerns with national policies and priorities. The Paignton Zoo case illustrates this well. The proposed development included the refurbishment of the zoo, the development of a 6,000 sq. m retail food store, parking spaces for 600 cars, and a petrol filling station. The proposals clearly raised major issues of policy, including those set out in PPG 6 Town Centres and Retail Development and PPG 21 Tourism. There were several conflicting considerations, including the likely effect of the retail development on the town centre, and the precarious economic position of the zoo, which, so it was argued, was ‘likely to close unless it receives a capital injection of the size that only this proposal is likely to provide, thereby causing a loss to the local economy of approximately £6 million per annum and a significant loss of jobs’. The Secretary of State decided that these and other benefits to tourism and the local economy (together with highway improvements) more than outweighed any harm which might be done to the vitality of the town centre, and he therefore granted planning permission. In the words of the decision, the harm likely to arise from the proposals is less clear cut than the effects that would result from the decline and possible closure of the zoo . . .; the balance of advantage lies in favour of allowing the proposal . . .; the zoo’s leading role in the local economy places it in a virtually unique position . . .; [but the decision] should not be regarded as a precedent for other businesses seeking to achieve financial stability ( JPL 1995: 657)


If the machinery of planning control is to be effective, some means of enforcement is essential. Under the prewar system of interim development control there were no such effective means. A developer could go ahead without applying for planning permission, or could even ignore a refusal of permission. The developer took the risk of being compelled to ‘undo’ the development (for example, demolish a newly built house) when, and if, the planning scheme was not approved, but this was a risk that was usually worth taking. And if the development was inexpensive and lucrative (for example, a petrol station or a greyhound racing track), the risk was virtually no deterrent at all. This flaw in the prewar system was remedied by the strengthening of enforcement provisions. These are required not only for the obvious purpose of implementing planning policy, but also to ensure that there is continuing public support for, and confidence in, the planning system. To quote PPG 18, Enforcing Planning Control, The integrity of the development control process depends on the LPA’s readiness to take effective action when it is essential. Public acceptance of the development control process is quickly undermined if unauthorised development, which is unacceptable on planning merits, is allowed to proceed without any apparent attempt by the LPA to intervene before serious harm results from it. (1991: para. 4)

Enforcement provisions were radically changed by the 1991 Planning and Compensation Act following a comprehensive review by Robert Carnwath, QC, published in 1989. Current provisions are summarised in DoE Circular 10/97.30 The 1991 Act provided a range of tools in addition to the long-standing provision for enforcement notices. Development undertaken without permission is not an offence in itself, but ignoring an enforcement notice is, and there is a maximum fine following conviction of £20,000. (In determining the amount of the fine, the court is required to ‘have regard to any financial benefit which has accrued’.) There is a right of appeal against an enforcement notice. An appeal also contains

a deemed application for development for which a fee is payable to the planning authority. Appeals can be made on several grounds: for example, that permission ought to be granted, that permission has been granted (e.g. by the GPDO), and that no permission is required. There is also a limited right of appeal on a point of law to the high court. The enforcement appeal procedures in England have been reviewed with a view to improving their efficiency and standardising procedures between these and other planning appeals.31 Enforcement can be a lengthy process. For example, South Hams District Council issued an enforcement notice in January 1990 for the removal of a house built without consent. In 1993 the owner was fined £300 for breaching the enforcement notice. In 1995 he was jailed for three months for contempt of a court order requiring demolition. He had demolished only the upper storey and grassed over the lower half.32 Where it is uncertain whether planning permission is required, an LPA has power to issue a planning contravention notice. This enables it to obtain information about a suspected breach of planning control and to seek the cooperation of the person thought to be in breach. If agreement is not forthcoming (whether or not a contravention notice is served), an enforcement notice may be issued, but only ‘if it is expedient’ to do so ‘having regard to the provisions of the development plan and to any other material considerations’. In short, the local authority must be satisfied that enforcement is necessary in the interests of good planning. In view of the government’s commitment to fostering business enterprise (discussed further on p. 29), LPAs are advised in PPG 18 to consider the financial impact on small businesses of conforming with planning requirements. ‘Nevertheless, effective action is likely to be the only appropriate remedy if the business activity is causing irreparable harm.’ Development ‘in breach of planning control’ (development carried out without planning permission or without compliance with a planning condition) might be undertaken in good faith, or ignorance. In such a case, application can be made for retrospective permission. It is unlikely that a local authority would grant unconditional permission for a development




against which it had served a planning contravention notice, but it might be willing to give conditional approval. The 1991 Act also introduced a breach of condition notice as a remedy for contravention of a planning condition. This is a simple procedure against which there is no appeal, though there may be some legal complexities that will prevent its widespread use (Cocks 1991). Further, there is a new provision enabling an LPA to seek an injunction in the high court or county court to restrain ‘any actual or apprehended breach of planning control’. In Scotland the provision is for an interdict by the court of session or the sheriff. Where there is an urgent need to stop activities that are being carried on in breach of planning control, an LPA can serve a stop notice. This is an attempt to prevent delays in the other enforcement procedures (and advantage being taken of these delays) resulting in the local authority being faced with a fait accompli. Development carried out in contravention of a stop notice constitutes an offence. The provisions for enforcement are complex, and the reader is referred to the discussion in chapter 5 of the 1989 Carnwath Report and the relevant circulars. The position can be exacerbated by the lowly esteem in which the enforcement system (and those who staff it) are often held. Several commentators have termed enforcement ‘the weakest link in the planning chain’, both south and north of the Border. A recent study in Scotland found great variation in the use of enforcement powers. For example, one authority had served 156 planning contravention notices between 1992 and 1996 while another had served none (Edinburgh College of Art et al. 1997). Although planning authorities are mostly happy with enforcement powers they are sometimes reluctant to use them.33 Fortunately, the majority of alleged contraventions of planning control are dealt with satisfactorily and without any recourse to legal action, but the minority have a disproportionate effect on the credibility of the planning process as a whole.


The powers of development control possessed by local authorities go considerably further than the granting or withholding of planning permission. Authorities can interfere with existing uses and revoke a permission already given, even if the development has actually been carried out. A revocation order or modification order is made when the development has not been undertaken (or before a change of use has taken place). The local authority must ‘have regard to the development plan and to any other material considerations’, and an opposed order has to be confirmed by the Secretary of State. Compensation is payable for abortive expenditure and any loss or damage due to the order. Such orders are rarely made. Quite distinct from these powers is the much wider power to make a discontinuance order. This power is expressed in extremely wide language: an order can be made ‘if it appears to a local planning authority that it is expedient in the interests of the proper planning of their area (including the interests of amenity)’. Again confirmation by the Secretary of State is required, and compensation is payable for depreciation, disturbance, and expenses incurred in carrying out the works in compliance with the order. An order will be confirmed only if the case is a strong one. Indeed, cases have established the principle that a stronger case is needed to justify action to bring about the discontinuance of a use than would be needed to warrant a refusal of permission in the first instance. British planning legislation does not assume that existing non-conforming uses must disappear if planning policy is to be made effective. This may be an avowed policy, but the planning Acts explicitly permit the continuance of existing uses.


The Crown is not bound by statute and thus development by government departments does not require


planning permission, but there have been special arrangements for consultations since 1950. Increased public and professional concern about the inadequacy of these led to revised, but still non-statutory, arrangements culminating in DoE Circular 18/84. This asserts clearly that before proceeding with development, government departments will consult LPAs when the proposed development is one for which specific planning permission would, in normal circumstances, be required. In effect, local authorities should treat notification of a development proposal from government departments in the same way as any other application. Where the local authority is against the development the matter is referred to the Secretary of State. Development by private persons on ‘Crown land’ (that is, land in which there is an interest belonging to Her Majesty or government department) does require planning permission in the normal way, although there are limitations on the ability of the planning authority to enforce in these cases. The government announced in 1992 its intention to bring development by government departments under normal planning control, but so far no action has been taken. Development undertaken by statutory undertakers is subject to planning control but it is also subject to special planning procedures. Where a development requires the authorisation of a government department (as do developments involving compulsory purchase orders, work requiring loan sanction, and developments on which government grants are paid), the authorisation is usually accompanied by deemed planning permission. Much of the regular development of statutory undertakers and local authorities (for example, road works and laying of underground mains and cables) is permitted development under the GDO. Statutory undertakers wishing to carry out development which is neither permitted development nor authorised by a government department have to apply for planning permission to the local planning authority in the normal way, but special provisions apply to operational land. The original justification for this special position of statutory undertakers was that they are under an obligation to provide services to the public and could not, like a private firm in planning difficulties, go elsewhere.

Planning permission for major infrastructure projects such as railways, light rail systems and bridges was until 1992 granted by Act of Parliament. The Transport and Works Act 1992 provided a new procedure whereby the Secretary of State is able to make works orders which among other things will normally include deemed planning permission. Orders are subject to objection and public inquiry if necessary. For works of national significance the works must still be approved by Parliament.


Until 1992, LPAs were also deemed to have permission for any development which they themselves undertook in their area, as long as it accorded with the provisions of the development plan; otherwise they had to advertise their proposals and invite objections. The only requirement was for the local authority to grant itself permission by resolution. These ‘self-donated’ planning permissions are problematic: though local authorities are guardians of the local public interest, they can face a conflict of interest in dealing with their own proposals for development. Pragmatic consideration of the merits of a case involving their own role as developers can easily distort a planning judgement. Examples include attempts by authorities to dispose of surplus school playing fields with the benefit of permission for development; and competing applications for superstore development when one of the sites is owned by the authority itself. The local authorities’ position was not helped by judgements against them that found many irregularities in the necessary procedures (Moore 2000: 311). Because of these difficulties, new regulations were issued in 1992 which require LPAs to make planning applications in the same way as other applicants, and generally follow the same procedures including publicity and consultation. There must be safeguards to ensure that decisions are not made by members or officers who are involved in the management of the land or property, and the planning permission cannot pass to subsequent land and property owners. Where




other interests propose development on local authority-owned land they must apply for permission in the normal way. The new procedures did not go as far as some had hoped and criticism continues, and inevitably so since the accusation of bias is always possible while local authorities are able to grant themselves planning permission. The Scottish Local Government Ombudsman has for long complained about ‘the ease with which planning authorities breach their own plans, particularly considering the time, effort, and consultation which goes into them’. One solution would be for the Secretary of State to play a role in all applications in which the local authority has an interest (as proposed by the Nolan Committee on Standards of Conduct in Local Government).


The need to control advertisements has long been accepted. Indeed, the first Advertisements Regulation Act of 1907 antedated by two years the first Planning Act. But, even when amended and extended (in 1925 and 1932), the control was quite inadequate. Not only were the powers permissive: they were also limited. For instance, under the 1932 Act the right of appeal (on the ground that an advertisement did not injure the amenities of the area) was to the magistrates’ court – hardly an appropriate body for such a purpose. The 1947 Act set out to remedy the deficiencies. There are, however, particular difficulties in establishing a legal code for the control of advertisements. Advertisements may range in size from a small window notice to a massive hoarding; they may be in the form of a poster, a balloon, or even lasers; they vary in purpose from a bus stop sign to a demand to buy a certain make of detergent; they could be situated alongside a cathedral, in a busy shopping street, or in a particularly beautiful rural setting; they might be pleasant or obnoxious to look at; they might be temporary or permanent; and so on. The task of devising a code which takes all the relevant factors into account and, at the same time, achieves a balance between the conflicting interests of legitimate advertising and ‘amenity’ presents real problems. Advertisers themselves frequently complain

that decisions in apparently similar cases have not been consistent with each other. The official departmental view is that no case is exactly like another, and hard and fast rules cannot be applied: each case has to be considered on its individual merits in the light of the tests of amenity and – the other factor to be taken into account – public safety.34 The control of advertisements is exercised by regulations35 which are explained in PPG 19: Outdoor Advertising Control. The Secretary of State has very wide powers of making regulations ‘in the interests of amenity or public safety’. The question of public safety is rather simpler than that of amenity, though there is ample scope for disagreement: the relevant issue is whether an advertisement is likely to cause danger to road users, and also to ‘any person who may use any road, railway, waterway (including coastal waters), docks, harbour or airfield’. In particular, account has to be taken of the likelihood of whether an advertisement ‘is likely to obscure, or hinder the ready interpretation of, any road traffic sign, railway signal, or aid to navigation by water or air’. Amenity includes ‘the general characteristics of the locality, including the presence of any feature of historic, architectural, cultural or similar interest’. The definition of an advertisement is not quite as complicated as that of development, but it is very wide: Advertisement means any word, letter, model, sign, placard, board, notice, awning, blind, device or representation, whether illuminated or not, in the nature of, and employed wholly or partly for the purposes of, advertisement, announcement or direction and . . . includes any hoarding or similar structure used, or designed or adapted for use, and anything else principally used, or designed or adapted principally for use, for the display of advertisements. (Town and Country Planning Act 1990 s. 336(1))

It is helpfully added that the definition excludes anything ‘employed as a memorial or as a railway signal’. Various classes of advertisement are currently excepted from all control, although the classes are currently under review. They are advertisements displayed on a balloon; on enclosed land; within a building; and on or in a vehicle. Also excepted are traffic signs, election signs, and national flags. As one


might expect, there are some interesting refinements of these categories, which can be ignored for present purposes (though we might note, in passing, that a vehicle must be kept moving or, to use the more exact legal language, must be normally employed as a moving vehicle). With these exceptions, no advertisements may be displayed without consent. However, certain categories of advertisement can be displayed without express consent; so long as the local authority takes no action, they are deemed to have received consent. These include bus stop signs and timetables, hotel and inn signs, professional or business plates, ‘To Let’ and ‘For Sale’ signs, election notices, statutory advertisements, and traffic signs. It needs to be stressed that amenity and public safety are the only two criteria for control. The content or subject of an advertisement is not relevant, and a local authority cannot refuse express consent on grounds of morality, offensiveness, or taste. Thus an advertisement which contained the words ‘Chish and Fips’ was considered by the Secretary of State, on appeal, to be questionable on grounds of taste, but not detrimental to amenity: the appeal was allowed ( JPL 1959: 736). If an advertisement displayed with deemed consent becomes unsafe, unsightly or in any way ‘a substantial injury to the amenity of the locality or a danger to members of the public’, the LPA can serve a discontinuance order. There is the normal right of appeal to the Secretary of State. Advertisements displayed with express consent can be subject to revocation or modification, again with the normal rights of appeal. Complex though this may seem, it is not all that there is to advertisement control. In some areas – for example, conservation areas, national parks, or areas of outstanding natural beauty – it may be desirable to prohibit virtually all advertisements of the poster type and seriously restrict other advertisements, including those normally displayed by the ordinary trader. Accordingly, local planning authorities have power to define areas of special advertisement control (ASACs) where very strict controls are operated. Within such areas the general rule is that no advertisement may be displayed; such advertisements as are given express consent are considered as exceptions to this general rule.

These special controls originated primarily from the need to deal with the legacy of advertising hoardings which were such a familiar sight in the 1930s. It is now argued that they are obsolete, and can be replaced by simpler controls. Added justification is given to this argument by the fact that, in 1995, nearly a half of the area of England and Wales had been defined by local planning authorities as being within areas of special control. Consultation papers in 1996 and 199936 have argued that many orders were out of date since they no longer corresponded to the current limits of the built environment, while the system was either obscure or widely misunderstood by the public. The 1999 paper proposes to limit ASACs to national parks, AONBs, conservation areas, SSSIs and the Broads. Other changes are proposed in order to update the regulations, to close loopholes, and to reflect developments in the advertising industry: for example, in relation to bringing balloon advertisements under control; to add the flying of the European flag as an exemption from control; and to bring lasers into the meaning of ‘advertisement’. Particular attention is being given to fly-posting following research on the subject (Arup Economics and Planning 1999).


The reconciliation of economic and amenity interests in mineral working is an obvious matter for planning authorities (MPAs). It would, however, be misleading to give the impression that the function of planning authorities is simply to fight a continual battle for the preservation of amenity. Planning is concerned with competing pressures on land and with the resolution of conflicting demands. Amenity is only one of the factors to be taken into account. The general policy framework for minerals is set out in MPG 1. It is interesting to compare the current policy, as set out in the 1996 MPG, with that of the earlier (1988) version (both of which are illustrated in Box 5.3). The 1996 version places a significantly greater emphasis on conservation and environmental considerations.37 Planning powers provide for the making of the essential survey of resources and potentialities, the





The objectives are: (i) to conserve minerals as far as possible, whilst ensuring an adequate supply to meet needs; (ii) to ensure that the environmental impacts caused by mineral operations and the transport of minerals are kept, as far as possible, to an acceptable minimum; (iii) to minimise production of waste and to encourage efficient use of materials, including appropriate use of high quality materials, and recycling of wastes; (iv) to encourage sensitive working practices during minerals extraction and to preserve or enhance the overall quality of the environment once extraction has ceased; (v) to protect areas of designated landscape or nature conservation from development, other than in exceptional circumstances where it has been demonstrated that development is in the public interest; and (vi) to prevent the unnecessary sterilisation of mineral resources. PREVIOUS STATEMENT OF OBJECTIVES (1988) (a) (b) (c) (d)

to ensure that the needs of society for minerals are satisfied with due regard to the protection of the environment; to ensure that any environmental damage or loss of amenity caused by mineral operations and ancillary operations is kept at an acceptable level; to ensure that land taken for mineral operations is reclaimed at the earliest opportunity and is capable of an acceptable use after working has come to an end; to prevent the unnecessary sterilisation of mineral resources.

Source: MPG 1 (1996 and 1988)

allocation of land in development plans, and the control (by means of planning permission) of mineral workings. The MPA has to assess the amount of land required for mineral working, and this requires an assessment of the future demand likely to be made on production in its area. Obviously, this involves extensive and continuing consultation with mineral operators. All MPAs are now required to prepare minerals plans (which may be produced jointly with their waste plan). Powers to control mineral workings stem from the definition of development, which includes ‘the carrying out of . . . mining . . . operations in, on, over or under land’. However, a special form of control is

necessary to deal with the unique nature of mineral operations. Unlike other types of development, mining operations are not the means by which a new use comes into being, but a continuing end in themselves, often for a very long time. They do not adapt land for a desired end-use: on the contrary, they are essentially harmful and may make land unfit for any later use. They also have unusual location characteristics: they have to be mined where they exist. For these reasons, the normal planning controls are replaced by a unique set of regulations. Two major features of the minerals control system are that it takes into account the fact that mineral operations can continue for a long period of time, and


the fact that measures are needed to restore that land when operations cease. It is, therefore, necessary for MPAs to have the power to review and modify permissions and to require restoration. Under current legislation, MPAs have a duty to review all mineral sites in their areas. This includes those which were ‘grandfathered’ in by the 1947 Act. These old sites, of which there may be around a thousand in England and Wales, often lack adequate records. They present the particular problem that they can include large unworked extensions which are covered by the permission; if worked, these could have serious adverse effects on the environment. The provisions relating to these sites are even more complicated than those pertaining to the generality of mineral operations, and they have been significantly altered by the 1995 Environment Act. Details are set out in MPG 14. Policies for restoration (and what the Act quaintly calls ‘aftercare’) have become progressively more stringent, mainly in response to what the Stevens Report (1976) referred to as a great change in standards and attitudes to mineral exploitation. A lengthy guidance note (MPG 7) fully explains restoration policies and options. In view of the ongoing nature of mineral operations, particular importance is attached to schemes of progressive restoration which are phased in with the gradual working out of the site. (A very effective policy is to make new working dependent upon satisfactory restoration of used sites.) A good idea of the current policy is gained from the following quotation from MPG 7: The overall standards of reclamation have continued to improve over recent years, and with the development and implementation of appropriate reclamation techniques, there is potential for land to be restored to a high standard suitable for a variety of uses. Consistent and diligent application of the appropriate techniques will ensure that a wide range of sites are restored to appropriate standards. This may lead to the release of some areas of land which would not otherwise be made available for mineral working, for example, the best and most versatile agricultural land. Conversely where there is serious doubt whether satisfactory reclamation can be achieved at a particular site, then there must also be a doubt whether permission for mineral working should be given. (MPG 7 1996: para. 3)

The extraction of minerals is one of the most obvious examples of a ‘locally unwanted land use’ (LULU) and one that has a disproportionate effect on particular locations. But minerals extraction may also bring economic benefits, especially in more remote rural locations. Minerals development control seeks to reconcile these conflicting interests, and recent reviews of minerals planning guidance have taken much more account of the need for sustainable development (see Box 5.3). Nevertheless, a major limitation on the control of minerals exploitation is the emphasis on finding suitable locations, albeit in the interests of mitigating environmental impacts.38 Much less attention is given to managing the demand for these resources, a question which is taken up in Chapter 7. CARAVANS

During the 1950s the housing shortage led to a boom in unauthorised caravan sites. The controversy and litigation to which this gave rise led to the introduction of special controls over caravan sites (by Part I of the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960).39 The Act gave local authorities new powers to control caravan sites, including a requirement that all caravan sites had to be licensed before they could start operating (thus partly closing loopholes in the planning and public health legislation). These controls over caravan sites operate in addition to the normal planning system: thus both planning permission and a licence have to be obtained. Most of the Act dealt with control, but local authorities were given wide powers to provide caravan sites. Holiday caravans are subject to the same planning and licensing controls as residential caravans. To ensure that a site is used only for holidays (and not for ‘residential purposes’), planning permission can include a condition limiting the use of a site to the holiday season. Conditions may also be imposed to require the caravans to be removed at the end of each season or to require a number of pitches on a site to be reserved for touring caravans. One group of caravanners is particularly unpopular: gypsies, or, to give them their less romantic




description, ‘persons of nomadic life, whatever their race or origin’ (but excluding ‘members of an organised group of travelling showmen, or persons engaged in travelling circuses, travelling together as such’). The basic problem is that no one wants gypsies around: ‘all too often the settled community is concerned chiefly to persuade, or even force, the gypsy families to move on’. In an attempt to deal with the problem, the Caravan Sites Act 1968 gives local authorities in England and Wales (but not in Scotland) the duty to provide adequate sites for gypsies ‘residing in or resorting to’ their areas. In 1979 100 per cent grants were made available for capital works on sites.40 But the problems persisted; indeed, they got worse with increases in the estimated number of gypsy caravans, although many of these are in fact ‘New Age Travellers’. ‘The public visibility of gypsies has grown, while the tolerance of the settled community to them has declined’ (Home 1993).41 The 1992 consultation paper Reform of the Caravan Sites Act 1968 heralded a marked shift in policy. Under the new regime, the obligation of local authorities to provide gypsy sites has been abolished (‘privatised’?), and central government grants for gypsy caravan sites are being phased out. However, local authorities should ‘continue to indicate the regard they have had to meeting gypsies’ accommodation needs’, with ‘broad strategic policies’ in structure plans and detailed policies in local plans (DoE Circular 1/94). However, gypsy sites will not be appropriate in green belts or other protected areas, which had been previously allowed for by Circular 28/77. The flexibility to provide sites in the green belt and other protected areas was described as a ‘special status’ and current guidance says decisions on sites should be made on land use criteria only. Significantly, the legislation implementing the new policy is not of a planning character: it is the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (explained in Circular 1/94). In addition to repealing the obligations imposed on local authorities by the Caravan Sites Act, it provides stronger powers to remove ‘unauthorised persons’, though the DoE Circular espouses a policy of toleration towards gypsies on unauthorised sites. As a result, it can be expected that appeals relating to gypsy

sites will increase. The first appeal decisions suggest that inspectors may pay special attention to personal circumstances (particularly of children and the elderly) in justifying the grant of planning permission for gypsy sites. Also, cases have been taken to the European Court of Human Rights and have been held to be admissible. Clearly, the abolition of ‘the privileged position of gypsies’ will not end this sorry saga: it merely opens a new chapter.


One area of development control work that has expanded rapidly and with some controversy is telecommunications. The expansion of masts to service mobile phone networks has been a particular concern, at first because of their visual impact, but more recently because of potential health effects. In England, PPG 8 (1992) and Circular 4/99 are the main sources for policy on telecommunications. Similar guidance applies in the other parts of the UK. Given the speed at which this technology is advancing it will be no surprise that, at the time of writing, the guidance is under review. The DETR consultation paper Telecommunications Mast Development provides a summary of the background. It begins by pointing out the significance of electronic communication in the economy. More than 213,000 people are employed in this sector directly but it also provides a route to improved competitiveness for many businesses. Government policy is strongly behind the expansion of telecommunications; indeed, the aim is to make the UK the best place in the world for e-commerce by 2002.42 Whether or not this is achieved, electronic communication presents many challenges for the planning system, not least in its effect on spatial development patterns (see, for example, Graham and Marvin 1999). But the erection of masts and related equipment has been the main talking point so far, and government policy is clearly influenced by the economic argument for efficient communications networks and fostering competition among rival networks. Masts under 15 m in height are permitted development (with some exceptions)43 but there is a prior


approval procedure which gives the planning authority forty-two days to say whether it wishes to approve details of the siting and appearance of the development. Since 1999 the developer has also had to erect a site notice and has been encouraged to make sure that people affected will learn about the proposal. Local plans should include general policies for telecommunications-related development and may allocate sites for large masts. The planning authority should also encourage different operators to share facilities, though competition among the networks obviously limits their willingness to cooperate. There is also an obligation on the developer to site the mast so that it has least effect on the external appearance of buildings. Where this is not followed, the planning authority may serve a breach of condition notice on the basis that a condition of the permitted development right has not been complied with. Masts over 15 m in height require planning consent. The main proposed change to planning policy relates to health considerations (which are barely mentioned in the 1992 PPG 8). The Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones conducted an assessment of the health effects and concluded that ‘there is no general risk’ (quoted in the 2000 Consultation Paper). Nevertheless, the Group recommended a precautionary approach, and the proposed revised planning guidance accepts that the perception of risk can be a material consideration in determining applications for telecommunications apparatus. Thus we are likely to see tighter controls where masts are located in builtup areas, especially around schools and other public buildings.


A planning refusal does not of itself confer any right to compensation. On the other hand, revocations of planning permission or interference with existing uses do rank for compensation, since they involve a taking away of a legal right. In cases where, as a result of a planning decision, land becomes ‘incapable of reasonably beneficial use’, the owner can serve a purchase notice upon the local authority requiring it to buy the

property. In all cases, ministerial confirmation is required. The circumstances in which a purchase notice can be served include: • refusal or conditional grant of planning permission; • revocation or modification of planning permission; and • discontinuance of use. In considering whether the land has any beneficial use, relevant factors are the physical state of the land, its size, shape and surroundings, and the general patterns of landuses in the area; a use of relatively low value may be regarded as reasonably beneficial if such a use is common for similar land in the vicinity. (DoE Circular 13/83)

A purchase notice is not intended to apply in a case where an owner is simply prevented from realising the full potential value of his or her land. This would imply the acceptance in principle of paying compensation for virtually all refusals and conditional permissions. It is only if the existing and permitted uses of the land are so seriously affected as to render the land incapable of reasonably beneficial use that the owner can take advantage of the purchase notice procedure. There are circumstances, other than the threat of public acquisition, in which planning controls so affect the value of the land to the owner that some means of reducing the hardship is clearly desirable. For example, the allocation of land in a development plan for a school or for a road will probably reduce the value of houses on the land or even make them completely unsaleable. In such cases, the affected owner can serve a blight notice on the local authority requiring the purchase of the property at an ‘unblighted’ price. These provisions are restricted to owner-occupiers of houses and small businesses who can show that they have made reasonable attempts to sell their property but have found it impossible to do so except at a substantially depreciated price because of certain defined planning actions. These include land designated for compulsory purchase, or allocated or defined by a development plan for any functions of a government department, local authority, or statutory undertaker,




and land on which the Secretary of State has given written notice of his or her intention to provide a trunk road or a special road (i.e. a motorway). The subject of planning blight takes us into the much broader area of the law relating to compensation. This is an extremely complex field, and only an indication of three major provisions can be attempted here. First, there is a statutory right to compensation for a fall in the value of property arising from the use of highways, aerodromes, and other public works which have immunity from actions for nuisance. The depreciation has to be caused by physical factors such as noise, fumes, dust, and vibration, and the compensation is payable by the authority responsible for the works. Second, there is a range of powers under the heading ‘mitigation of injurious effect of public works’. Examples include sound insulation; the purchase of owner-occupied property which is severely affected by construction work or by the use of a new or improved highway; the erection of physical barriers (such as walls, screens, or mounds of earth) on or alongside roads to reduce the effects of traffic noise on people living nearby; the planting of trees and the grassing of areas; and the development or redevelopment of land for the specific purpose of improving the surroundings of a highway ‘in a manner desirable by reason of its construction, improvement, existence or use’. Third, provision is made for home loss payments as a mark of recognition of the special hardship created by compulsory dispossession of one’s home. Since the payments are for this purpose, they are quite separate from, and are not dependent upon, any right to compensation or the disturbance payment which is described below. Logically, they apply to tenants as well as to owner-occupiers, and are given for all displacements whether by compulsory purchase or by any action under the Housing Acts. These provisions were slightly extended in the 1991 Planning and Compensation Act. Additionally, there is a general entitlement to a disturbance payment for persons who are not entitled to compensation. Local authorities have a duty ‘to secure the provision of suitable alternative accommodation where this is not otherwise available on reasonable

terms, for any person displaced from residential accommodation’ by acquisition, redevelopment, demolition, closing orders, and so on.


There has been a succession of attempts on the part of central government to ‘streamline the planning process’ and to make it more ‘efficient’. The reasons for these have differed. In the early 1970s the concern was with the enormous increase in planning applications and planning appeals which, of course, stemmed from the property boom of the period. By 1981, government concern was with the economic costs of control, with cutting public expenditure, and with ‘freeing’ private initiative from unnecessary bureaucratic controls. During the 1990s the emphasis has been on speeding and raising standards of the ‘planning service’ so as to achieve better efficiency and value for money, although the objective of relieving business from the burden of regulation has remained important. Indeed, the main themes of the discussion on making the system more efficient in the 1970s are much the same today. It is therefore useful to look briefly at the analysis of the problem made by an inquiry chaired by George Dobry, QC, in 1975. The starting point for Dobry’s inquiry was the lengthening delay in the processing of planning applications, but he was quick to point out that ‘not all delay is unacceptable: it is the price we must pay for the democratic planning of the environment’. Moreover, his review took account of factors which were very different from those relevant to ‘streamlining the planning machine’: the increasing pressure for public consultation and participation in the planning process; and the ‘dissatisfaction on the part of applicants because they often do not understand why particular decisions have been made, or why it is necessary for what may seem small matters to be the concern of the planning machinery at all’. Additionally, he noted that ‘many people feel that the system has not done enough to protect what is good in an environment or to ensure that new development is of a sufficiently high quality’.


Dobry therefore had a difficult task of reconciling apparently irreconcilable objectives: to expedite planning procedures while at the same time facilitating greater public participation and devising a system which would produce better environmental results. His solutions attempted to provide more speed for developers, more participation for the public, and better-quality development and conservation. This was to be effected by the division of applications into minor and major. Despite the inherent difficulties of determining in advance the category into which an application falls (at least to the satisfaction of the public and the local amenity societies), it is nevertheless a fact that some 80 per cent of all applications are granted (that is still the case today) and that many of these are simple and straightforward. Dobry’s proposal, in essence, was that simple applications should be distinguished and treated expeditiously by officials, though with the opportunity for some participation and with a safety channel to allow them to be transferred to the major category if this should prove appropriate. Dobry’s scheme was a heroic attempt to improve the planning control system to everyone’s satisfaction (Jowell 1975). Inevitably, therefore, it disappointed everybody. For example, though he made a number of proposals to increase public participation, his overriding concern for expediting procedures forced him to compress ‘simple’ applications into an impracticable time scale. The Dobry inquiry was instigated by a Conservative government at a time when the property market was booming. On its completion the boom had collapsed and a Labour government had published its outline proposals for the community land legislation. Thus, the planning scene had changed fundamentally. The government rejected all Dobry’s major recommendations for changes in the system, though it was stressed that their objectives could typically be achieved if local authorities adopted efficient working methods. Dobry’s view that ‘it is not so much the system which is wrong but the way in which it is used’ was endorsed, and his Final Report was commended ‘to students of our planning system as an invaluable compendium of information about the working of the

existing development control process, and to local authorities and developers as a source of advice on the best way to operate within it’. The Conservative government which was elected in 1979 lost no time in preparing a revised development control policy. A draft circular was sent out for comment in mid-1980. This created alarm among the planning profession, partly because of its substantive proposals but also partly because of its abrasive style. ‘The Most Savage Attack Yet’, expostulated Municipal Engineering, while Planner News remonstrated that the results of the circular ‘could be disastrous’.44 The revised circular, as published (22/80), was written with a gentler touch, but much of the message was very similar. The emphasis was on securing a ‘speeding up of the system’ and on ensuring that ‘development is only prevented or restricted when this serves a clear planning purpose and the economic effects have been taken into account’. Regular publication of performance figures (the percentage of planning applications decided within eight weeks) became the standard by which the efficiency of the development control system is measured. Quarterly figures have been published since 1979, and are used by both the government and the development industry to bolster criticisms of the system. The policy ‘to simplify the system and improve its efficiency’ (to use the words of the 1985 White Paper Lifting the Burden) continued with revised circulars, new White Papers, and the introduction of planning mechanisms which reduced or bypassed local government control such as simplified planning zones and urban development corporations. However, towards the end of the 1980s a greater emphasis on ‘quality’ emerged, as environmental awareness and concern increased. A change in direction was signalled by the 1992 Audit Commission report on development control, significantly entitled Building In Quality. Though the major emphasis was still on the process of planning control rather than its outcome, there was a very clear recognition of the importance of the latter. The report noted that there had been a preoccupation with the speed of processing planning applications, ‘ignoring the mix of applications, the variety of development control functions, and the quality of




Strategic objectives

Percentage of new homes built on previously developed land

Cost and efficiency

Planning cost per head of population

Service delivery outcomes

The number of advertised departures from the statutory plan approved by the authority as a percentage of total permissions granted. Percentage of applications determined within eight weeks (excluding applications involving environmental assessment). Average time taken to determine all applications


Percentage of applicants and those commenting on planning applications satisfied with the service received (based on a list of questions specified by the DETR). Score against a checklist of planning practice; for development control these include: • providing for pre-applications discussions; • having a published charter setting targets for stages of the process; • having fewer than 40% of appeals overturning the council’s original decision; • delegation of 70% or more decisions; • no costs or ombudsmen reports finding against the authority; • provision of a one-stop service; and • equal access to the planning service for all groups.

Figure 5.3 Best Value Performance Indicators for Planning

outcomes’. But there had been no ‘shared and explicit’ concept of quality, yet ‘The quality of outcomes is more important than the quality of the process because buildings will be seen long after memories of the decision process have lapsed, but it is far harder to assess’. Quality of development control is seen as involving an ‘adding of value’ by the local authority. What that ‘added value’ may be is dependent upon the authority’s overall objectives: ‘in areas under heavy development pressure or in rural areas, environmental, traffic, or ecological considerations may be paramount’; in Wales ‘the impact of the development on the Welsh language can be a consideration’. The effect of Building In Quality has been to redress the balance somewhat from the emphasis on lifting the burden of regulation, but the importance of meeting the eight-week targets remains. There was a considerable overall improvement in performance in the first part of the 1990s: from 46 per cent of applications decided within eight weeks in 1989–90 to 65 per cent in 1993–94, but performance has

remained much the same since then. In 1998–99 the figure was 63 per cent.45 A review of progress on Building In Quality in 1999 points to the value of increasing delegation of decision making to officers for those authorities whose performance has improved. The reduced number of applications from the peak in 1988–89 (illustrated in Figure 5.2) and the increasing coverage of local development plan policy are also significant factors. Nevertheless, the review clearly demonstrates great variation in performance and the need for improvement in matters of customer care and service delivery – a point made by a succession of planning ministers, but apparently with little effect. And the need to make the system more responsive to business and ‘customer’ needs remains. Particular attention is being given to the idea of creating a ‘onestop shop’ approach providing a more user-friendly service for those who will be seeking more complicated consents.46 The introduction of Best Value, the new initiative to improve performance in the delivery of local


government services across the board, is explained in Chapter 4. Best Value seeks to marry the need for increased efficiency with recognition of the importance of maintaining and improving quality, and has established a wide framework of performance indicators and targets, some dictated ‘nationally’ and others defined by the local authority itself. Figure 5.3 shows the performance indicators for planning; most relate to the development control function, and specific reference is made to the quality of the service. Local authorities are preparing five-year plans for improving performance under Best Value, and these will be reviewed annually, although planning will not be a priority for some in the first round for 2001. Authorities will supplement the national indicators with their own local indicators in making comparisons with other authorities. Good practice in implementing Best Value in planning is being prepared by the Planning Officers’ Society with support from the DETR. Although planning authorities have long made the case for assessing quality as well as efficiency, there is no doubt that more than a few will struggle to meet the criteria here.


Legal Texts The law and procedure of development control are explained fully in several textbooks. For England and Wales, see K. Thomas (1997) Development Control: Principles and Practice; Moore (2000) A Practical Approach to Planning Law, and Duxbury (1999) Telling and Duxbury’s Planning Law and Procedure; for Northern Ireland: Dowling (1995) Northern Ireland Planning Law; and for Scotland: Collar (1999) Green’s Concise Scots Law: Planning and McAllister and McMaster (1999) Scottish Planning Law. The Encyclopedia of Planning Law and Practice (Grant 1997) provides excellent commentary on planning legislation and policy. Some of the RTPI’s practice advice notes (listed at the end of this text) are particularly relevant to development control.

Use Classes and Development Orders For a study on the use and complexity of the GPDO, see Edinburgh College of Art et al. (1997) Research on the General Permitted Development Order and Related Mechanisms; and also BDP in association with Berwin Leighton (1998) The Use of Permitted Development Rights by Statutory Undertakers. On Article 4 Directions, see Roger Tym & Partners (1995a) The Use of Article 4 Directions by Local Planning Authorities, and Larkham and Chapman (1996) ‘Article 4 Directions and development control’. The standard legal text is Grant (1996) Permitted Development. The Development Plan as a Consideration The impact of the introduction of section 54A (s. 25 of the Scottish Act) (note that there is no equivalent in the Northern Ireland legislation) is reviewed by Gatenby and Williams (1996) ‘Interpreting planning law’, and see also their earlier paper (1992) ‘Section 54A: The legal and practical implications’; MacGregor and Ross (1995) ‘Master or servant? The changing role of the development plan in the British planning system’; Purdue (1991) ‘Green belts and the presumption in favour of development’; M. Harrison (1992) ‘A presumption in favour of planning permission?’; and Herbert-Young (1995) ‘Reflections on section 54A and plan-led decision-making’. Other Material Considerations PPG 1 presents a succinct statement concerning material considerations. For a categorisation of considerations, see Davies et al. (1986a) The Relationship between Development Plans, Development Control and Appeals; this work is also summarised by K. Thomas (1997) Development Control: Principles and Practice. See also HC Welsh Affairs Committee (1993) Rural Housing, where the issue is examined in depth. Design There are two very good starting points for considering the role of design as a consideration in planning: the




DETR and CABE publication By Design: Urban Design in the Planning System – Towards Better Practice (2000) includes checklists of design considerations and a list of other references. The reader by Greed and Roberts (1998) Introducing Urban Design has a number of relevant papers, but in particular Carmona ‘Urban design and planning practice’ presents the history of design control and a very thorough review of design considerations in control. See also Carmona’s two-part article in Planning Practice and Research (1998, 1999) ‘Residential design policy and guidance’; and Taylor (1999) ‘The elements of townscape and the art of urban design’. Punter’s work is notable in this field. See his 1990 book Design Control in Bristol, 1940–1990; and (1986–87) ‘A history of aesthetic control: the control of the external appearance of development in England and Wales’. Another recent text is Smith Morris (1997) British Town Planning and Urban Design: Principles and Policies. There is a huge library on particular design issues. See, for example, Llewelyn-Davies (1998b) Planning and Development Briefs: A Guide to Better Practice; Countryside Commission (1993) Design in the Countryside; DoE (1994) Quality in Town and Country (Discussion Paper); and (1995) Quality in Town and Country: Urban Design Campaign; National Audit Office (1994) Environmental Factors in Road Planning and Design; NIDoE (1994) A Design Guide for Rural Northern Ireland; Scottish Office (1994) Fitting New Housing Development into the Landscape (PAN 44), Barton et al. (1995) Sustainable Settlements; Bishop (1994) ‘Planning for better rural design’; and Owen (1991) Planning Settlements Naturally. There are numerous guides to better design in the built environment including English Partnerships’ Urban Design Compendium (2000); the Scottish Office PAN 59: Encouraging Higher Standards of Design; and the DETR’s By Design: Urban Design in the Planning System: Towards Better Practice (2000) and Training for Urban Design (2000). Amenity For a discussion of statutory provisions in relation to ‘amenity’, see Sheail (1992) ‘The amenity clause’, and

also an unusual historical study of the development of the notion of amenity in Millichap (1995a) ‘Law, myth and community: a reinterpretation of planning’s justification and rationale’. Appeals The Planning Inspectorate Journal has provided numerous perspectives on appeals. The Chief Planning Inspector has given his view of current issues in Shepley (1999) ‘Decision-making and the role of the Inspectorate’. An example of the analysis of appeals data is given by Wood et al. (1998) ‘The character of countryside recreation and leisure appeals’. Enforcement Two standard legal texts are Millichap (1995b) The Effective Enforcement of Planning Controls and Bourne (1992) Enforcement of Planning Control. DoE Circular 10/97 gives a comprehensive explanation of the enforcement provisions of the 1991 Act alongside the DETR Enforcing Planning Control: A Good Practice Guide; see also PPG 18. The operation of the procedures in Scotland has been investigated by the Edinburgh College of Art et al. (1997) Research on the General Permitted Development Order and Related Mechanisms; see also Upton and Harwood (1996), ‘The stunning powers of environmental inspectors’ which provides a striking contrast to the planning enforcement system. The DETR consultation paper Improving Enforcement Appeal Procedures (1999) reviews the finer points of implementing the ‘new’ system. Advertisements The regulations are explained in DoE Circular 19/92; policy guidance is given in PPG 19 and TAN (W) 7. The fullest exposition of the law of advertisement control is given in Mynors (1992) Planning Control and the Display of Advertisements, and a useful update is given in the 1999 DETR consultation paper on Outdoor Advertisement Control. For Scotland, see SOEnD Circular 31/92.


Minerals The minerals planning guidance notes provide a rich source of information, in particular MPG 1 on general considerations and MPG 2 on how development control of minerals is undertaken. A bibliography on reclamation for various uses in given in MPG 7: on aggregates, see MPG 6 (revised 1994); DoE. The DETR sponsors extensive research on minerals and the reader is directed to the Planning and Minerals Research Newsletter. An excellent review of mineral resource planning and sustainability is given by Owens and Cowell (1996) Rocks and Hard Places. Minerals guidance is being reviewed and further consultation papers are expected.

application discussions; and the Report of the Scottish Executive Targets Working Group on Planning Services (1999), which includes an analysis of what factors delay planning permissions.



Caravans and Gypsies The appalling living conditions of gypsies, combined with public attitudes towards them, have presented difficult political problems for governments: an excellent review of the contradictions in government policy is provided by Morris (1998) ‘Gypsies and the planning system’; see also Gentleman (1993) Counting Travellers in Scotland. The main official reference is DoE Circular 1/94 Gypsy Sites and Planning. Efficiency in Development Control The 1992 Audit Commission report Building in Quality: A Study of Development Control and the subsequent 1998 Building in Quality: A Review of Progress on Development Control are the main sources. The various responsible government departments publish quarterly figures on the development control performance which are accompanied by press notices giving the latest ministerial pronouncements on the need for improvement. The Planning Officers’ Society has made its good practice guidance on Best Value and planning available via the Web at . Further details on Best Value are available at the DETR web site . See also the DETR good practice guide The One Stop Approach to Development Consents, which includes discussion on related issues such as pre-





Until 1995 the General Development Order (GDO) contained both permitted development rights and procedural matters (relating to planning applications). In 1995 these were separated (following the Scottish model introduced in 1992). There is therefore now a General Permitted Development Order (GPDO) and a General Development Procedure Order (GDPO). See Circular 9/95, General Development Order Consolidation. Though these new orders are predominantly consolidations, they contain a number of changes. Circular 9/95: General Development Order Consolidation 1995 para. 1. The Secretary of State approves Article 4 Directions except those that are specifically related to dwelling-houses in conservation areas. PPG 15 explains the application of Article 4 Directions in conservation areas in England. The changes in local authority management structures mean that many decisions are now made by a cabinet rather than committees, but in the case of planning and other regulatory activities local authorities must retain the committee decision-making procedure (although some decisions will be delegated). Some large authorities will divide up the committee into smaller local area committees. Essex (1996) reviews these two cases and the general issue of relationships between officers and members in decision-making. The issue is also taken up in Chapter 12. The development plan may mean the unitary development plan or the structure and local plan depending on the area in question and includes the minerals and waste plans and old subject plans where these have not yet been replaced with new plans; see Chapter 4.





Exactly the same provision is made in the Scottish legislation as s. 25 of the 1997 Act (formerly s. 18A of the 1972 Act). No such provision has been made for Northern Ireland. 7 In his judgement in the case of The City of Edinburgh v. the Secretary of State for Scotland, Lord Hope said, ‘it requires to be emphasised however, that the matter is nevertheless still one of judgement, and that this judgement is to be exercised by the decision taker. The development plan does not, even with the benefit of section 18A, have absolute authority. The planning authority . . . is at liberty to depart from the development plan if material considerations indicate otherwise’ (Encyclopedia P54A.05/2 (Grant 1997)). 8 The discretion to take into account a wide range of considerations in making decisions on planning applications is perhaps where the British planning systems differ most from most systems elsewhere, which tend to rely more on the provisions of a legally binding planning instrument. See Booth (1996) and Nadin et al. (1997). 9 The research by Davies et al. (1986a) noted above provides long lists of material considerations. See also K. Thomas (1997: 95–103) and Roger Tym & Partners (1989a). 10 PPG 1, General Policy and Principles (1997), notes that the government’s statements of planning policy ‘cannot make irrelevant any matter which is a material consideration in a particular case. But, where such statements indicate the weight that should be given to relevant considerations, decision-makers must have proper regard to them. If they elect not to follow relevant statements of the Government’s planning policy they must give clear and convincing reasons (EC Grandsen and Co Ltd v. SSE and Gillingham BC 1985). Emerging planning policies, in the form of draft Departmental Circulars and policy guidance, can be regarded as material considerations, depending on the context. Their very existence may indicate that a relevant policy is under review and the circumstances which have led to that review may need to be taken into account’ (paras 52 and 53).

11 This dismal conclusion is corroborated by the studies of Booth and Beer (1983). They found that though nearly two-thirds of all permissions granted ‘carried conditions that were intended to modify the landscape design, layout and architectural detailing of the developments’, the conditions were frequently vague and not site specific. Enforcement was lax. Many applications were considered ‘without anybody fully trained in design having been involved in their processing’. The suggestion is made that ‘this may well be a factor in the generally poor quality and particularly the monotony of the new environments which can be observed in many parts of Britain’. 12 The role of regulation of design was taken forward in Circular 31/85, which emphasised that ‘a large proportion of planning appeals involve detailed design matters’ and that ‘far too many planning applications are delayed because the planning authority seeks to impose detailed design alterations’. 13 Chapman and Larkham (1999) note the poor level of commentary on and failure to disseminate lessons from this initiative in a paper generally sceptical of its wider impact in the face of lack of interest after a change in government. 14 Price Waterhouse (1997) The Design Improvement Controlled Experiment: Evaluation of the Impact, Costs and Benefits of Estate Re-modelling (London: DETR). 15 Circular 11/95 does not deal with conditions in respect of minerals or waste which are dealt with in the minerals planning guidance notes and PPG 23, Planning and Pollution Control. 16 In Scotland guidance is given in Circular 4/1998, and in Wales it is Welsh Office Circular 35/95, both entitled The Use Conditions in Planning Permissions. 17 PPG 3, Housing (2000), notes that it is common practice to renew planning permissions, but encourages local planning authorities to review permissions in the light of current planning policy and if necessary not renew permissions or impose new conditions (para. 40). 18 But the trench-digger may be brought up against a further provision: the serving of a completion






notice. Such a notice states that the planning permission lapses after the expiration of a specified period (of not less than one year). Any work carried out after then becomes liable to enforcement procedures. The fees are amended on a regular basis. For illustration, at the time of writing, the fee in England and Wales for residential development is £190 per dwelling (up to a maximum of £9,500 or £4,750 for outline applications); £95 for extensions to dwellings; and for commercial and industrial buildings it varies according to gross floorspace created: £35 for 40 sq. m, and for larger developments £190 for each 75 sq. m up to a maximum of £9,500 (The Town and Country Planning (Fees for Applications and Deemed Applications) (Amendment) Regulations 1997 Statutory Instrument 1997 no. 37). Fees in Scotland have been updated more recently: The Town and Country Planning (Fees for Applications and Deemed Applications) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2000, SI 2000 no. 150. In England appeals are made to the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions and in Wales to the Welsh Assembly. In both cases the Planning Inspectorate Executive Agency considers and makes decisions on most (the nature of the Agency is explained in Chapter 3). In Scotland the Inquiry Reporters Unit considers appeals, representing the Scottish Minister for Planning. In Northern Ireland the Planning Appeals Commission has the same role as the Planning Inspectorate. The Franks Committee on Administrative Tribunals and Inquiries argued that it was not satisfactory ‘that a government department should be occupied with appeal work of this volume, particularly as many of the appeals relate to minor and purely local matters, in which little or no departmental policy entered’ (Franks Report 1957: 85). Cases may be recovered by the Secretary of State where they involve substantial development (over 150 houses or retail development over 100,000 sq. ft), significant proposed development in the








green belt; major mineral planning appeals; where other government departments have an interest, or where there is major controversy over the development. Circular 5/2000 explains the procedures and gives references to the inquiry, hearing and written representation rules. At the time of writing, Scotland and Wales had not reviewed their appeal procedures, although devolution is likely to make them more distinctive to the specific needs of these countries. Government targets for the processing of appeals by the Inspectorate in England are eighteen weeks for 80 per cent of written representations, twentyfour weeks for 80 per cent of hearings and thirtysix weeks for 80 per cent of inquiries. Performance has improved dramatically over recent years and is reaching the target for written representations (seventeen weeks) but is below it for hearings (twenty-seven weeks) and inquiries (forty-one weeks) (Planning Inspectorate Executive Agency, Statistical Report, 1999). Similar targets are set in Scotland and Wales. See the DETR consultation papers Modernising Planning: Improving Planning Appeal Procedures (1998) and Modernising Planning: The Recovery of Costs of Public Local Inquiries Held into Planning Matters (1998). The Inspectorate have agreed and published Better Presentation of Evidence in Chief with the Local Government Planning and Environment Bar Association (2000). See also the RTPI Practice Advice Note No. 9 Development Control: Handling Appeals (1995), although this does not take account of the new procedures in England. The difficulties of the interpretation of aggregate appeals data (since each decision is made on its merits) has been a subject of continuing debate. For example, see Brotherton (1993). See Cambridge University, Department of Land Economy (1999) Environmental Court Project (London: DETR). Until September 1999 this role was undertaken by the Royal Fine Arts Commission, which requested intervention by the Secretary of State






32 33






on numerous occasions, although not always successfully. Another important body is the Urban Design Alliance, which comprises professional bodies that seek to improve the quality of life through urban design. The Circular should be read in conjunction with ‘Planning Policy Guidance Note 18, Enforcement, and the DETR’, Enforcing Planning Control: Good Practice Guide for Local Planning Authorities. In Scotland the key references are Circular 4/1999 and Planning Advice Note 54, Enforcement. See also RTPI Practice Advice Note no. 6 (1999) and Enforcement of Planning Control (1996). The DETR consultation paper Modernising Planning: Improving Enforcement Appeal Procedures (1999) makes numerous recommendations including requirements for a list of relevant development plan policies and time limits for notification and representations to be made. Independent, 9 December 1995: 9. The study found that stop notices are not used because of the fear of compensation payments; that breach of condition notices may be difficult to employ because conditions are not worded with sufficient specificity; and that there was some frustration at the difficulty of employing the ‘ultimate sanction’ through the courts. The government has suggested that a third test should be added: the policies of the development plan. In England, the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) Regulations 1992 (SI 666) as amended in 1994 (SI 2351) and 1999 (SI 1810). DoE consultation paper Outdoor Advertisement Control: Areas of Special Control of Advertisements (1996) and DETR consultation paper Modernising Planning: Outdoor Advertisement Control (1999). The first revision of MPG 1 was published in 1994. The second and sixth points in the 1996 list were added in 1996 strengthening policy on both preventing negative environmental impacts and ensuring that mineral resources are kept available. The DETR has funded a series of research projects






on the environmental impacts of minerals exploitation that inform national policy on development control. The most recent reports are Arup Environmental and Ove Arup & Partners (1995) The Environmental Effects of Dust from Surface Mineral Workings; Vibrock Ltd (1998) The Environmental Effects of Production Blasting from Surface Mineral Workings; ENTEC UK Ltd (1998) The Environmental Effects of Traffic Associated with Mineral Workings; and University of Newcastle upon Tyne (1999) Do Particulates from Opencast Coal Mining Impair Children’s Respiratory Health? This legislation has remained as a separate code and is not consolidated in the Town and Country Planning Act of 1990. The Caravan Sites Act 1968, which deals mainly with the protection from eviction of caravan dwellers and gypsies, is similarly separate. The report by John Cripps (1977) Gypsy Site Policy and Illegal Camping: A Report on the Working of the Caravans Sites Act 1968, was instrumental in the changes. Circular 28/77 clearly conveyed the government policy of the time to give gypsies special protection in the planning system; it even accepted the necessity of establishing gypsy sites in the protected areas such as green belts and AONBs. It was anticipated that caravan sites would be located in such protected areas, especially when close to the urban fringe. The number of gypsies has been estimated at ‘9,000 families in 13,500 caravans, 9,000 of which are parked on legal sites’ (excluding ‘New Age Travellers) (Morris 1998). The UK’s e-commerce strategy is being implemented by the Electronic Communications Act 2000 and a host of measures including the requirement for 50 per cent of government services to be delivered through the Internet by 2005 and all services by 2008. Details are available at the DTI web site . Some masts or antennas may be so small that they do not constitute development – for example, television aerials have been treated as outside the


definition of development (despite their sometimes significant impact on the external appearance of buildings). The exceptions from permitted development for masts under 15 m in height include proposed masts on listed buildings, scheduled ancient monuments and where the planning authority has made an Article 4 Direction withdrawing permitted development rights. 44 An example of the matters to which objection was taken was the call for relaxation of controls over private-sector housing: ‘Local authorities should not lay down requirements on the mix of house types, provision of garages, internal standards, sizes of private gardens, location of houses on plots and in relation to each other, provision of private open space.’ The Circular also stated that planning authorities should not attempt to compel

developers to adopt designs which were unpopular with customers or clients, ‘and they shouldn’t attempt to control such details as shapes of windows or doors or the colour of bricks’. 45 Only twenty-seven planning authorities in England met the government’s target of deciding 80 per cent of applications within eight weeks; ninety-seven planning authorities decided 70 per cent or more and ten planning authorities decide fewer than 40 per cent within eight weeks. 46 In 1998 the DETR published a good practice guide, The One-Stop Shop Approach to Planning Consents. There is also increasing interest in comparisons of practice in the UK with other countries; on development control, see GMA Planning et al. (1993) Integrated Planning and the Granting of Permits in the EC.



It is clear that under a system of well-conceived planning, the resolution of competing claims and the allocation of land for the various requirements must proceed on the basis of selecting the most suitable land for the purpose, irrespective of the existing values which may attach to the individual parcels of land. (Uthwatt Report 1942)


It was the task of the Uthwatt Committee, from whose report the above epigraph is taken, to devise a scheme which would make its striking claim possible. Effective planning necessarily controls, limits, or even completely destroys the market value of particular pieces of land. Is the owner to be compensated for this loss in value? If so, how is the compensation to be calculated? And is any ‘balancing’ payment to be extracted from owners whose land appreciates in value as a result of planning measures? This problem of compensation and betterment arises fundamentally ‘from the existing legal position with regard to the use of land, which attempts largely to preserve, in a highly developed economy, the purely individualistic approach to land ownership’. This ‘individualistic approach’, however, has been increasingly modified during the past hundred years. The rights of ownership were restricted in the interests of public health: owners had (by law) to ensure, for example, that their properties were in good sanitary condition, that new buildings conformed to certain building standards, that streets were of a minimum width, and so on. It was accepted that these restrictions were necessary in the interests of the community (salus populi est suprema lex, the welfare of the people is the supreme

law) and that private owners should be compelled to comply with them even at cost to themselves. All these restrictions, whether carrying a right to compensation or not, are imposed in the public interest, and the essence of the compensation problem as regards the imposition of restrictions appears to be this – at what point does the public interest become such that a private individual ought to be compelled to comply, at his own cost, with a restriction or requirement designed to secure that public interest? The history of the imposition of obligations without compensation has been to push that point progressively further on and to add to the list of requirements considered to be essential to the well-being of the community. (Uthwatt Report, para. 33)

But clearly there is a point beyond which restrictions cannot reasonably be imposed on the grounds of good neighbourliness without payment of compensation – and ‘general consideration of regional or national policy requires so great a restriction on the landowner’s use of his land as to amount to a taking away from him of a proprietary interest in the land’. This, however, is not the end of the matter. Planning sets out to achieve a selection of the most suitable pieces of land for particular uses. Some land will therefore be zoned for a use which is profitable for the owner, whereas other land will be zoned for a use having a low, or even nil, private value. It is this difficulty of development value


which raises the compensation problem in its most acute form. The expectations (or hopes) of owners extend over a far larger area than is likely to be developed. This potential development value is therefore speculative, but until the individual owners are proved to be wrong in their assessments (and how can this be done?), all owners of land having a potential value can make a case for compensation on the assumption that their particular pieces of land would in fact be chosen for development if planning restrictions were not imposed. Yet this floating value might never have settled on their land, and obviously the aggregate of the values claimed by the individual owners is likely to be greatly in excess of a total valuation of all pieces of land. Furthermore, the public control of land use necessarily involves the shifting of land values from certain pieces of land to other pieces: the value of some land is decreased, while that of other land is increased. Planning controls, so it was argued, do not destroy land values: in the words of the Uthwatt Committee, ‘neither the total demand for development nor its average annual rate is materially affected, if at all, by planning ordinances’. Nevertheless, the owner of the land on which development is prohibited will claim compensation for the full potential development of his land, irrespective of the fact that the value may shift to another site. In theory, it is logical to balance the compensation paid to aggrieved owners by collecting a betterment charge on owners who benefit from planning controls (Hagman and Misczynski 1978), but previous experience with the collection of betterment had not been encouraging.1 The Uthwatt Committee concluded that the solution to these problems lay in changing the system of land ownership under which land had a development value dependent upon the prospects of its profitable use. They maintained that no new code for the assessment of compensation or the collection of betterment would be adequate if this ‘individualistic’ system remained. The system itself had inherent ‘contradictions provoking a conflict between private and public interest and hindering the proper operation of the planning machinery’. A new system was needed which would avoid these contradictions and which so unified existing rights in land as to ‘enable shifts

of value to operate within the same ownership’. The Uthwatt Committee’s solution was the nationalisation of development rights in undeveloped land.

THE 1947 ACT

Essentially, this is what the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act did: development rights and their associated values were nationalised. No development was to take place without permission from the local planning authority. If permission were refused, no compensation would be paid (except in a limited range of special cases). If permission were granted, any resulting increase in land value was to be subject to a development charge. The view was taken that ‘owners who lose development value as a result of the passing of the Bill are not on that account entitled to compensation’. This cut through the insoluble problem posed in previous attempts to collect betterment values created by public action. Betterment had been conceived as any increase in the value of land arising from central or local government action. The 1947 Act went further: all betterment was created by the community, and it was unreal and undesirable (as well as virtually impossible) to distinguish between values created, for example, by particular planning schemes, and those due to other factors such as the general activities of the community or the general level of prosperity. If rigorous logic had been followed, no payment at all would have been made for the transfer of development value to the state, but this, as the Uthwatt Committee had pointed out, would have resulted in considerable hardship in individual cases. A £300 million fund was therefore established for making ‘payments’ (as distinct from ‘compensation’) to owners who could successfully claim that their land had some development value on the appointed day – the day on which the provisions of the Bill which prevented landowners from realising development values came into force. Considerable discussion took place during the passage of the Bill through Parliament on the sum fixed for the payments, and it was strongly opposed on the ground that it was too small. The truth of the




matter was that in the absence of relevant reliable information, any global sum had to be determined in a somewhat arbitrary way, but in any case it was not intended that everybody should be paid the full value of their claims. Landowners would submit claims to a centralised agency, the Central Land Board, for loss of development value: that is, the difference between the unrestricted value (the market value without the restrictions introduced by the Act) and the existing use value (the value subject to these restrictions). When all the claims had been received and examined, the £300 million would be divided between claimants at whatever proportion of their 1948 value that total would allow. (In the event, the estimate of £300 million was not as far out as critics feared: the total of all claims finally amounted to £380 million.) These provisions, of which only the barest summary has been given here, were very complex and, together with the inevitable uncertainty as to when compensation would be paid and how much it should be, resulted in a general feeling of uncertainty and discontent which did not augur well for the scheme. The principles, however, were clear. To recapitulate, all development rights and values were vested in the state: no development could take place without permission from the local planning authority and then only on payment of a betterment charge to the Central Land Board. The nationalisation of development rights was effected by the ‘promised’ payments in lieu of compensation. As a result, landowners owned only the existing use rights of their land and it thus followed, first, that if permission to develop was refused, no compensation was payable, and second, that the price paid to public authorities for the compulsory acquisition of land would be equal to the existing use value: that is, its value excluding any allowance for future development. The scheme did not work as smoothly as was expected. Land changed hands at prices which included the full development value. This was largely due to the severe restrictions which were imposed on building. Building licences were very scarce, and developers who were able to obtain them were willing to pay a high price for land upon which to build. The Labour government was in process of reviewing the scheme when it lost office.


The Conservative government which took office in 1951 was intent on raising the level of construction activity and particularly the rate of private housebuilding. Though, within the limits of building activity set by the Labour government, it is unlikely that the development charge procedure seriously affected the supply of land, it is probable that the Conservative government’s plans for private building would have been jeopardised by it. This was one factor which led the new government to consider repealing development charges. There is no doubt that these charges were unpopular, particularly since they were payable in cash and in full, whereas payments on the claims on the £300 million fund were deferred and uncertain in amount. Given the political and technical problems involved, it was decided that the best solution was the complete abolition of development charges. However, to safeguard the public purse, acquisitions of land by public authorities were to remain at the existing use value. The effect of the complicated network of legislation which now (1954) operated was basically to create two values for land according to whether it was sold in the open market or acquired by a public authority. This was an untenable position, and as land prices increased, partly owing to planning controls, the gap between existing use and market values widened, particularly in suburban areas near green belt land. The greater the amount of planning control, the greater did the gap become. Thus, owners who were forced to sell their land to public authorities considered themselves to be very badly treated in comparison with those who were able to sell at the enhanced prices resulting in part from planning restrictions on other sites. The inherent uncertainties of future public acquisitions – no plan can be so definite and inflexible as to determine which sites will (or might) be needed in the future for public purposes – made this distinction appear arbitrary and unjust. The abolition of the development charge served to increase the inequity. The contradictions and anomalies in the 1954 scheme were obvious. It was only a matter of time


before public opinion demanded further amending legislation.


Opposition to this state of affairs increased with the growth of private pressures for development following the abolition of building licences. Eventually the government was forced to take action. The resulting legislation (the Town and Country Planning Act 1959) restored fair market price as the basis of compensation for compulsory acquisition. Owners now obtained (in theory at least) the same price for their land irrespective of whether they sold it to a private individual or to a public authority. These provisions thus removed a source of grievance, but they did nothing towards solving the fundamental problems of compensation and betterment, and the result proved extremely costly to public authorities. If this had been a reflection of basic principles of justice there could have been little cause for complaint, but in fact an examination of the position shows clearly that this was not the case. In the first place, the 1959 Act (like previous legislation) accepted the principle that development rights should be vested in the state. This followed from the fact that no compensation was payable for the loss of development value in cases where planning permission was refused. But if development rights belong to the state, surely so should the associated development values? Consider, for example, the case of two owners of agricultural land on the periphery of a town, both of whom applied for planning permission to develop for housing purposes – the first being given permission and the second refused on the ground that the site in question was to form part of a green belt. The former benefited from the full market value of his or her site in residential use, whereas the latter could benefit only from its existing use value. No question of compensation arose since the development rights already belonged to the state, but the first owner had these given back without payment. There was an obvious injustice here which could have eventually

led to a demand that the ‘penalised’ owner should be compensated. Second, as has already been stressed, the comprehensive nature of the planning system has a marked effect on values. The use for which planning permission has been, or will be, given is a very important factor in the determination of value. Furthermore, the value of a given site is increased not only by the development permitted on that site, but also by the development not permitted on other sites. In the example given above, for instance, the value of the site for which planning permission for housing development was given might be increased by virtue of the fact that it was refused on the second site.


Mounting criticism of the inadequacy of the 1959 Act led to a number of proposals for a tax on betterment. The Labour government which was returned to power in 1964 introduced the Land Commission Act, which provided for a new levy and had two main objectives: ‘to secure that the right land is available at the right time for the implementation of national, regional and local plans’, and ‘to secure that a substantial part of the development value created by the community returns to the community and that the burden of the cost of land for essential purposes is reduced’ (White Paper, The Land Commission, 1965). To enable these two objectives to be achieved, a Land Commission was established. The Commission could buy land either by agreement or compulsorily, and it was given very wide powers for this purpose. The second objective was met by the introduction of a betterment levy on development value. This was necessary not only to ensure that a substantial part of the development ‘returned to the community’, but also to prevent a two-price system as had existed under the 1954 Act. The levy was deducted from the price paid by the Commission on its own purchases and was paid by owners when they sold land privately. Landowners thus theoretically received the same amount for their land whether they sold it privately, to the Land Commission, or to another public authority.




The levy differed from the development charge of the 1947 Act in important ways. Most significantly, it did not take all the development value. Though the Act did not specify what the rate was to be, it was made clear that the initial rate of 40 per cent would be increased to 45 per cent and then to 50 per cent ‘at reasonably short intervals’. (It never was.) The Land Commission’s first task was to assess the availability of, and demand for, land for housebuilding, particularly in the areas of greatest pressure. In its first annual report it pointed to the difficulties in some areas, particularly in the South-East and the west Midlands, where the available land was limited to only a few years’ supply. Most of this land could not, in fact, be made available for early development. Much of it was in small parcels; some was not suitable for development at all because of physical difficulties; and, of the remainder, a great deal was already in the hands of builders. Thus there was little that could be acquired and developed immediately by those other builders who had an urgent need for land. All this highlighted the need for more land to be allocated by planning authorities for development. The Land Commission had to work within the framework of the planning system, and was subject to the same planning control as private developers. The intention was that the Commission would work harmoniously with local planning authorities and form an important addition to the planning machinery. As the Commission pointed out, despite the sophistication of the British planning system, it was designed to control land use rather than to promote the development of land. The Commission’s role was to ensure that land allocated for development was in fact developed, by channelling it to those who would develop it. It could use its powers of compulsory acquisition to amalgamate land which was in separate ownerships and acquire land whose owners could not be traced. It could purchase land from owners who refused to sell for development or from builders who wished to retain it for future development. In its first report, the Land Commission gently referred to the importance of its role in acting ‘as a spur to those local planning authorities whose plans have not kept pace with the demand for various kinds of

development’. Though it hoped that planning authorities would allocate sufficient land, it warned that in some cases it might have to take the initiative and, if local authorities refused planning permission, go to appeal. In its second interim report, a much stronger line was taken. It pointed out that in the pressure areas, it had had only modest success in achieving a steady flow of land onto the market. This was largely because these were areas in which planning authorities were aiming to contain urban growth and preserve open country. It is not easy to appraise what success the Land Commission achieved. It was only beginning to get into its stride in 1970 when a new government was returned which was pledged to its abolition on the grounds that it ‘had no place in a free society’. This pledge was fulfilled in 1971 and thus the Land Commission went the same way as its predecessor, the Central Land Board.


Land prices were rising during the late 1960s (with an increase of 55 per cent between 1967 and 1970), but the early 1970s witnessed a veritable price explosion. Using 1967 as a base (100), prices rose to 287 in 1972 and 458 in 1973. Average plot prices rose from 908 in 1970 to 2,676 in 1973 (DoE, Housing and Construction Statistics 1969–1979, table 3). Not surprisingly, considerable pressure was put on the Conservative government to take some action to cope with the problem, though it was neither clear nor agreed what the basic problem was (Hallett 1977: 135). The favourite explanation, however, was ‘speculative hoarding’, and it was this which became the target for government action (in addition to a series of measures designed to speed up the release and development of land). A White Paper, Widening the Choice: The Next Steps in Housing, set out proposals for a land hoarding charge. This was to be levied ‘for failure to complete development within a specified period from the grant of planning permission’. After this ‘completion period’ (of four years from the granting of outline planning permission or three years in the case


of full planning permission), the charge was to be imposed at an annual rate of 30 per cent of the capital value of the land. The scheme was clearly a long-term one and, to deal with the urgent problem (‘urgent’ in political if not in any other terms), a development gains tax and a first letting tax were introduced. The development gains tax provided for gains from land sales by individuals to be treated not as capital gains, but as income (and thus subject to high marginal rates). The first letting tax, as its name implies, was a tax levied on the first letting of shops, offices, or industrial premises. In concept, it was an equivalent to the capital gains tax which would have been levied had the building been sold. Both taxes came into operation at the time when the land and property boom turned into a slump. Indeed, it has been suggested that they contributed to it (Hallett 1977: 137).


The Labour government which was returned to power in March 1974 lost little time in producing its proposals for a new scheme for collecting betterment. The objectives of this were ‘to enable the community to control the development of land in accordance with its needs and priorities’ and ‘to restore to the community the increase in value of land arising from its efforts’. The keynote was ‘positive planning’, which was to be achieved by public ownership of development land. In England and Scotland, the agency for purchasing development land was to be local government (thus avoiding the inter-agency conflict which arose between local authorities and the Land Commission). In Wales, however, with its smaller local authorities, an ad hoc agency was to be created (this became the Land Authority for Wales, now part of the Welsh Development Agency). In order ‘to restore to the community the increase in value of land arising from its efforts’, it was proposed that ‘the ultimate basis on which the community will buy all land will be current use value’. Sale of the land to developers, on the other hand, would be at market value. Thus, all development value would accrue to the

community. Provisionally, however, development values were to be recouped by a development land tax. The ensuing legislation came in two parts: the 1975 Community Land Act provided wide powers for compulsory land acquisition, while the Development Land Tax Act 1976 provided for the taxation of development values. Thus the twin purposes of ‘positive planning’ and of ‘returning development values to the community’ were to be served. The Community Land Scheme was complex, and became increasingly so as regulations, directions, and circulars followed the passing of the two Acts. The intention was for it to be phased in gradually, thus enabling programmes to be developed in line with available resources of finance, human resources, and expertise. In the first stage, which started on the ‘first appointed day’ (6 April 1976), local authorities had a general duty ‘to have regard to the desirability of bringing development land into public ownership’. In doing so, they had ‘to pay particular regard to the location and nature of development necessary to meet the planning needs of their areas’. To assist them in carrying out this role, they had new and wider powers to buy land to make it available for development. The second stage was to be introduced as authorities built up resources and expertise. The Secretary of State would make orders providing that land for development of the kind designated in the order, and in the area specified by the order, would pass through public ownership before development took place. These duty orders were to be brought in to match the varying rates at which authorities became ready to take on such responsibilities. When duty orders had been made covering the whole of Great Britain, the ‘second appointed day’ (or SAD Day as critics dubbed it) could be brought in. This would have had the effect of changing the basis of compensation for land publicly acquired from a market value (net of tax) basis to a current use value basis: that is, its value in its existing use, taking no account of any increase in value actually or potentially conferred by the grant of a planning permission for new development. The scheme, like its two predecessors, had little chance to prove itself before the return of a




Conservative government. The economic climate of the first two years of its operation could hardly have been worse, and the consequent public expenditure crisis resulted in a central control which limited it severely (Grant 1979; Emms 1980). Thus three attempts to solve the compensation and betterment problem failed, though the problems to which they were directed are still very much with us. Moreover, as the following discussion shows, there are still attempts to secure the recoupment of betterment.


The failure of comprehensive schemes for the collection of betterment was one of a number of factors which, in the early 1980s, stimulated an already established trend for increasing the levying of charges on developers. Other influences included a general move from a regulatory to a negotiatory style of development control, increased delays in the planning system, and the financial difficulties of local authorities in providing infrastructure (Jowell 1977a; Sheaf Report 1972). Planning authorities have had power to make ‘agreements’ since 1932, but it was not until the property boom of the early 1970s that they became widely used – or, as some argue, abused. The term planning gain is popularly used, but with two different meanings. The term can denote the provision of facilities which are an integral part of a development, but it can also mean ‘benefits’ which have little or no relationship to the development, and which the local authority requires as the price of planning permission. There has been very extensive debate on this issue, and the list of relevant publications is very long. Unfortunately, neither publications nor statutory changes and ministerial exhortations have done much to settle the arguments. The extremes range from the Property Advisory Group’s (1981) categorical statement that planning gain has no place in the planning control system, to Mather’s (1988) proposal that planning gain should be formalised by allowing local authorities to sell or auction planning consents.

Essentially, the issue is the extent to which local authorities can legitimately require developers to shoulder the wider costs of development: the needed infrastructure, schools, and other local services. The extremes are easy to identify: the cost of local roads in a development is clearly acceptable, while financial contributions to the cost of running a central library are not. But, of course, most items fall well within these extremes. The general view, supported by a number of studies, was that the majority were legitimate (Byrne 1989; Eve 1992; Rowan-Robinson and Durman 1992a). These studies effectively demolish the argument that there was widespread extortion by way of planning gain. Fewer than 1 per cent of planning decisions involve planning agreements; the largest proportion are concerned with regulatory matters (contracts, plans and drawings, building materials, etc.); and over half deal with occupancy conditions (for example, restrictions required for sheltered housing, agricultural dwellings, and social housing). Agreements serve an important function in securing the provision of infrastructure necessitated by a development (particularly local roads), and in environmental improvement (such as landscaping). Only a very small number of agreements are concerned with wider planning objectives. In Scotland ‘most agreements are useful adjuncts to the development control process’; abuse of power does not present a problem; and for the most part, the benefits secured by agreements have been related to the development proposed: where they have not, the benefits have been of a relatively minor order (RowanRobinson and Durman 1992a: 73). The statutory provisions relating to agreements were amended by the Planning and Compensation Act 1991. Agreements were replaced by ‘obligations’ and can now be unilateral – not involving any ‘agreement’ between a local authority and a developer at all. Though the wider debate has been on the ethics of planning gain, this provision in fact deals only with a narrow legal difficulty. A DoE Consultation Paper issued in August 1989 explained that a logjam could arise where the Secretary of State decided that a planning appeal should be allowed if a certain condition were met, but there was no legal basis for imposing


BOX 6.1


The Paignton Zoo case is a revealing case of the extent to which planning benefits are acceptable as legitimate. A proposed development included a 65,000 sq. ft retail store, parking spaces for 600 cars, a petrol station, and the refurbishment of the zoo. The proposals clearly raised major issues of policy including those set out in PPG 6 Town Centres and Retail Development and PPG 21 Tourism. There were several conflicting considerations, including the likely effect of the retail development on the town centre, and the precarious economic position of the zoo (which was ‘likely to close unless it receives a capital injection of the size that only this proposal is likely to provide, thereby causing a loss to the local economy of approximately 6 million per

annum and a significant loss of jobs’). The Secretary of State decided that these and other benefits to tourism and the local economy (together with highway improvements) more than outweighed any harm which might be done to the vitality of the town centre, and he therefore granted planning permission. In the words of the decision, ‘the harm likely to arise from the proposals is less clear cut than the effects that would result from the decline and possible closure of the zoo; the balance of advantage lies in favour of allowing the proposal; the zoo’s leading role in the local economy places it in a virtually unique position’. However, the Secretary of State stressed that the decision ‘should not be regarded as a precedent for other businesses seeking to achieve financial stability’.

Source: JPL (1995: 657) the condition (typically because it involved off-site infrastructure). The new provision allows a developer to make an agreement to provide the necessary off-site works even if the local authority is not prepared to be a party to the agreement. This seems a small point on which to base the change from ‘agreements’ to ‘obligations’; it is possible that a more important function of the provision was to give the appearance of a change in policy which would curb the alleged excesses of planning gain. In fact, nothing could be further from the reality. DoE Circular 7/91 had already made it clear that local authorities could negotiate with developers for the provision of social housing. This represented a major extension of the arena of planning agreements. But, in the debates on the 1991 Bill, the minister (Sir George Young) went further: I think we are all agreed that planning gain is a useful part of the planning system and should be preserved and even encouraged. . . . A planning gain would do more than merely provide facilities that would normally have been provided at public expense. It would provide facilities that the public would never have afforded.

Similarly, the RICS, in its response (1991) to the White Paper This Common Inheritance, expressed the hope that agreements would be extended: ‘It is hoped that consideration can be given to an increased use of agreements where major developments are proposed so that the community can gain some off-setting benefit, particularly when there is a loss of amenity.’ As the report on the Scottish study notes (Rowan-Robinson and Durman 1992a), these views (from such eminent sources) amounted to a major change in opinion since the Property Advisory Group (1981) declared the pursuit of planning gain to be unacceptable. At the root of this is a significant change in the expected roles of the private and public sectors in land development. Whereas it used to be the case that the responsibilities of developers were clearly limited, it has become generally (even if not unanimously) accepted that the public sector is financially unable to meet the associated costs in the traditional way. The move from a regulatory to a negotiatory style of control is another aspect of this, as has been the willingness of developers to shoulder these costs.




Economic and social factors now loom large in planning decisions. The courts have clearly stated that financial issues can be ‘material considerations’ in planning, as long as they are secondary to planning matters. Thus, in the case of office development granted (contrary to the local plan) to enable the redevelopment of the Covent Garden Opera House to be financially viable, it was argued: Financial constraints on the economic viability of a desirable planning development are unavoidable facts of life in an imperfect world. It would be unreal and contrary to common sense to insist that they must be excluded from the range of considerations which may properly be regarded as material in determining planning applications. . . . Provided that the ultimate determination is based on planning grounds and not on some ulterior motive, and that it is not irrational, there would be no basis for holding it to be invalid in law solely on the ground that it has taken account of, and adjusted itself to, the financial realities of the overall situation. (R. v. Westminster City Council ex. p. Monahan, JPL 1989: 107).

Social factors may present greater difficulties, as when Lord Widgery held that the London Borough of Hillingdon could not impose a condition that the

BOX 6.2

occupants of a private housing development should be people on the council’s waiting list (R. v. London Borough of Hillingdon ex. p. Royco Homes [1974] 2 All ER 643). Nevertheless, the matter is not settled – as is instanced by the debate on the role of planning policies (as distinct from housing policies) in the provision of affordable housing.


The stance of the central government on the role of planning in relation to affordable housing has been a curious one for some time. On the one hand, ‘planning conditions and agreements cannot normally be used to impose restrictions on tenure, price or ownership’, but ‘they can properly be used to restrict the occupation of property to people falling within particular categories of need’. Both statements are from Circular 7/91, Planning and Affordable Housing, which was an early attempt to wrestle with this politically difficult issue. This was replaced by Circular 9/98 (with the same title), which repeats the warning against tenure


Properly used, planning obligations may enhance the quality of development and enable proposals to go ahead which might otherwise be refused. They should, however, be relevant to planning and directly related to the proposed development if they are to influence a decision on a planning application. In addition, they should only be sought where they are necessary to make a proposal acceptable in landuse planning terms. When used in this way, they can be key elements in the implementation of planning policies in an area. For example, planning obligations may involve transport-related matters (e.g. pedestrianisation, street furniture and lighting, pavement and road surface-design and materials,

and cycle ways). Planning obligations may relate to matters other than those covered by a planning permission, provided that there is a direct relationship between the planning obligation and the planning permission. But they should not be sought where this connection does not exist or is considered too remote. Planning obligations may have a useful role to play in the planning system. The tests to apply for their use are that they should be necessary, relevant to planning, directly related to the proposed development, fairly and reasonably related in scale and kind to the proposed development and reasonable in all other respects.

Source: Circular 1/97, Planning Obligations (Annex B, para. B2)


conditions, and defines affordable housing in these terms: The terms ‘affordable housing or ‘affordable homes’ are used in this Circular to encompass both low-cost market and subsidised housing (irrespective of tenure, ownership whether exclusive or shared or financial arrangements) that will be available to people who cannot afford to rent or buy houses generally available on the open market.

This is criticised as quite inadequate on three grounds. First, it leads to the provision of small houses for sale at full market prices. Second, housing may be less expensive than other housing in a development, but still not ‘affordable’ to local people. Third, on resale, houses are sold at full market prices, thus losing the benefit of any discount and also control over future occupants (Chartered Institute of Housing et al. 1999). Though the Circular uses the language of voluntary provision and relies upon developers’ contributions being secured through negotiation, neither the purpose nor the effect of its requirements is voluntary (Grant 1999b: 71). Developers are expected to provide affordable housing on developments above a certain size (twenty-five dwellings, or more than one hectare, except in Inner London, where the requirement relates to fifteen dwellings or half a hectare). Where a developer is unwilling to accept such a condition, planning permission may be refused. This policy is seen as a means of catering for a range of housing needs and of encouraging the development of mixed and balanced communities in order to avoid areas of social exclusion. It is to be noted that this policy has no specific legislative provision and, though this does not make it illegal, a developer has little chance of successfully opposing it. An appeal is hardly likely to succeed when the principle is set out in a departmental circular. In fact, at the time of writing, increasing use is being made of the requirement for low-cost housing. The Stockport case (see Box 6.3) exemplifies the situation. Even more curious is the policy of ‘exceptional release’ of land, outside the provisions of the development plan, for ‘local needs’ housing. This is an explicit ‘use of the planning system to subsidise the provision of low cost housing through containment of land value’.2 The extent to which authorities can


McCarthy and Stone proposed to develop a brownfield site in Stockport with two blocks of sheltered flats for elderly owner-occupiers. The development would have met a market demand and would have improved the character and appearance of a derelict site. However, it was rejected on appeal because the scheme did not provide any low-cost housing. The inspector said that he considered that the failure to make provision for an element of low-cost housing on what is a suitable site would be so harmful as to amount to a compelling planning objection. He also maintained that the provision of affordable housing would not render the development cost of the flats uneconomic. Moreover, there was no ‘convincing evidence that the development’s success would be jeopardised because of any incompatibility between affordable housing and sheltered housing for the elderly’. Source: Planning 17 September 1999: 9 achieve planning benefits depends, of course, on their bargaining power, which in turn may be related to current (and local) economic conditions. The situation varies over time and by region. In some circumstances, ‘getting a developer to build anything is, in our eyes, a planning gain’ (quoted in Jowell 1977a: 428); in others, the local pressures for development are so strong that local authorities can secure considerable benefits. The London situation, however, is unique, with housing costs at record levels, and acute pressures on affordable housing.3 By 1998 the number of households on local council waiting lists had risen to 178,000, and the average private rent for a threebedroom dwelling was £349 a week. (By contrast, the rent of a semi-detached house in Leeds was £85 a week.) The problem will worsen as the number of households in London increases (by 600,000 between 1996 and 2021, according to the latest household




projections) and new provision remains low (only 11,170 housing association dwellings were built in 1998, while local authority building has ceased). Only a major increase in both the allocation of housing land for affordable housing and the necessary funding will make any improvement. A (perhaps surprisingly) little-used policy is to reserve new housing for local people. This is particularly appropriate in areas where there is great competition for housing on the part of commuters or holiday home buyers. One authority that has designated areas where new houses are restricted to locals is the North York Moors National Park. This policy was introduced in 1992, and was being extended at the end of 1999. An alternative, of course, is the provision of social rented housing, where occupancy is straightforward. Unfortunately, funding for such housing is scarce. The growth of planning agreements gives rise to a number of concerns. The ethics of bargaining are debatable; there is scope for unjustifiable coercion; and equal treatment as between applicants can be abandoned in favour of charging what the market will bear at any particular time. Additionally, bargaining is a closed, private activity which sits uneasily astride the current emphasis on open government and public participation. Much of the difficulty in this area may arise from the discretionary nature of the British planning control system, in which negotiation is an important feature. However, studies of US land use regulation (which supposedly emphasises property rights and reduces development uncertainties) show that negotiation is equally prevalent there (Cullingworth 1993: chapters 6 and 7). An essential issue is that though development rights in land are nationalised, their associated values are privately owned. Much of the case for ‘planning gain’ is that it is a means of capturing some of this value for the public benefit.


Though the Community Land Act was repealed by the Conservative government in 1980, local authorities

still retained considerable powers of compulsory acquisition of land. They could acquire, with the consent of the Secretary of State, any land in their area which (a) is suitable for and required in order to secure the carrying out of development, redevelopment, or improvement; or (b) is required for a purpose which it is necessary to achieve in the interests of the proper planning of an area in which the land is situated.

These powers (which are still possessed by local authorities under section 226 of the 1990 Act) specifically provided for compulsory acquisition of land for disposal to a private developer. Indeed, the government made it clear that these ‘planning purposes’ powers (which could be of particular importance in bringing land on to the market) were generally to be used to assist the private sector. The compulsory purchase regime is now under review. The Interim Report4 of the review notes the widespread perception that the process ‘is slow in operation, inefficient, and not always fair to those whose property is acquired’ (p. 7). As a result, compulsory purchase is now less often used than local authorities would like it to be, and is therefore not the aid to urban regeneration that it might be (Freilich 1999). Such powers have been widely used for land assembly, and the redevelopment of many towns from the 1950s to the 1990s would have been impossible without them, though many of the results are hardly an advertisement for increasing their use now. In the words of the minister, the main objective is to create a system ‘which is efficient, effective and fair’. That last criterion becomes even more important in the context of the Human Rights Act (Redman 1999). Additionally, the Secretary of State has some formidable powers. First, he or she has the reserve power to direct a local authority to make an assessment of land available and suitable for residential development. Second, the powers to acquire any land necessary for the public service include the authorisation of acquisitions ‘to meet the interests of proper planning of the area, or to secure the best or most economic development or use of land’. (Ironically these


provisions are a modified re-enactment of a section of the repealed Community Land Act.) However, little use has been made of these powers; instead, reliance has been placed on ensuring that local planning authorities planned for sufficient available land.


It was a major objective of the postwar planning system to ensure that land required for development would become available – if necessary by the use of compulsory purchase powers. As previous discussion has shown, things did not work out like this despite three attempts (in 1947, 1967, and 1975). Except in special cases, such as new towns and comprehensive development areas, there has been little use of compulsory purchase powers. Thus the land ‘allocations’ in plans remained just that: allocations on paper. There is no necessary relationship between the allocation of land and its availability. It is therefore not surprising that there has been considerable controversy over the extent to which allocated land is in fact available for development. In Hooper’s (1980) words, The planning system and the house building industry operate not only with a different definition, but with a different conception, of land availability – the former based on public control over land use, the latter on market orientation to the ownership of land.

However, land availability studies were the centrepin of the planning system5 until they were supplanted by urban capacity studies. This new system, introduced by the revised PPG 3, Housing (2000), represents a major change in policy. It places emphasis on the reuse of land in urban areas. This is the favoured location for new development in view of its assumed ‘sustainability’. This is interpreted in various ways: it is held that urban locations reduce traffic (and emissions) and help to safeguard the countryside; they provide accessibility to goods and services, and allow new energy-saving technologies such as combined heat and power systems; and they provide a more lively and interactive social milieu.6 But, above all, the policy has widespread popular

support, particularly in terms of ‘saving the countryside’. Eloquent of this is the Select Committee’s forthright declaration that ‘the only way that the government’s proposals for urban regeneration and for greater use of recycled land can be achieved are by restricting the amount of greenfield land brought forward’.7 This has been backed up by a new Greenfield Housing Direction (2000), which requires local authorities to consult the Secretary of State on planning applications for major housing developments of more than 5 hectares or 150 dwellings. The same commitment is evident in changes in government policy, above all the commitment to maximising the reuse of previously developed land and the conversions of buildings for housing in order both to promote regeneration and to minimise the amount of greenfield land being taken for development. This policy permeates the revised PPG 3, in which the policy is spelled out in some detail. Potential sites should be assessed against a number of criteria such as the availability and net cost of previously developed sites; their location and accessibility by public transport; the capacity of the infrastructure and services such as schools and hospitals, and the potential for developing and sustaining local services; and physical constraints on development. A sequential approach to the phasing of sites is introduced under which greenfield sites should not be developed for housing until the following options have been considered: • using previously developed sites within urban areas; • exploiting fully the potential for the better use and conversion of existing dwellings and nonresidential properties; • increasing densities of development in existing centres; • releasing land held for alternatives uses, such as employment; and • identifying areas where, through land assembly, area-wide redevelopment can be promoted. Local planning authorities are asked to undertake ‘urban capacity’ studies. These are to replace the




housing land availability studies as the principal means for determining the location of potential housing sites. No guidance has as yet been provided on the methodology of these,8 other than that they should take account of the National Land Use Database and examine the implications of policies for increasing densities, reducing car parking, and reviewing the potential over allocation of land for employment. Regional planning bodies are to use the capacity studies in proposing land recycling targets and allocating them among planning authorities. The government’s target is for 60 per cent of new housing to be provided on previously developed land or through conversions. This proportion is regarded by some (such as the TCPA) as overambitious, and by others (such as the CPRE) as too low.9 The actual figure for 1998 (the last year for which statistics were obtained) was 57 per cent or 53 per cent excluding conversions (DETR, Land Use Change in England Bulletin 2001 and Urban Task Force 1999: 174). The proportion varies considerably among regions, from 35 per cent in the South-West to 82 per cent in London. Reliable statistics are scarce on this issue, and the Urban Task Force considered the evidence carefully. As an illustration of the difficulties, there were two quite different figures for the amount of derelict land: 34,500 hectares according to the Derelict Land Survey, and 17,300 hectares recorded in the National Land Use Database. The Urban Task Force devised its own estimates for the various types of recyclable land and also of the number of dwellings that are likely to be accommodated on this land under current policies. It can be argued that these estimates are heavily influenced by wishful thinking, particularly since they are almost three times the estimate of the National Land Use Database. They are shown in Table 6.1. Despite the questionable nature of these figures, they imply that the 60 per cent target may not be achieved, particularly in London and the South-East. However, in the view of the Task Force, changes in current policies would make them achievable. The types of policy changes envisaged include increased urban regeneration, increased densities for development, allocation of more urban land to housing, and greater recycling of underused and empty buildings.

Table 6.1 Estimated Number of Houses Likely to be Built on Previously Developed Land, England, 1996–2021 Vacant previously developed land Derelict land/buildings Vacant buildings Projected windfall and other sources (1996–2021)

163,510 170,210 101,800 1,526,000



Source: Urban Task Force (1999a: 305), updated by Government Statistical Bulletin 500: National Land Use Database, which gives a much less optimistic forecast for the reuse of existing vacant buildings (101,800 rather than 247,000). The period 1996–2021 is that used for the current household projections.

On a range of assumptions, the Task Force (p. 305) manages to reach an ‘attainable target’ of 62.2 per cent. It could equally well be argued that, rather than an increase, it is more likely that there will be a decline. The argument here is that the increase in recycled land for housing has been due solely to the development of vacant brownfield sites which have been relatively easy to deal with (Llewelyn-Davies 1996). There has been little or no increase in the supply of other urban redevelopment sites or unused vacant land (Table 6.2). Certainly, the actual figures calculated by the Task Force are debatable, though, in a somewhat cavalier manner, it notes that it is ‘not making any great claims’ for the figures, but nevertheless maintains that they show that ‘over a significant period, the cumulative effect of a consistent and continued policy commitment could be considerable’. In one sense, therefore, its detailed calculations are of less import than the message it tried to convey, which is captured by the title of its report: Towards an Urban Renaissance.10 A major issue in the urban renaissance drive is the fear that it will lead to ‘town cramming’. An early expression of this was the response to the 1990 EC Green Paper on the Urban Environment. At what point do higher urban densities give rise to cramming? There is, of course, no mathematical answer to the question,

LAND POLICIES Table 6.2 Previous Use of Land Changing to Residential Use, England, 1985–93 1985 (%)

1989 (%)

1993 (%)




Redeveloped sites




Brownfield sites (vacant and previously developed)




All vacant land previously developed




Vacant: not previously developed




All rural uses Urban uses:

All urban All uses







Source: Breheny (1997: 212)

though there is an abundant literature on the issue.11 Aspects of design are often of greater significance, as are even more elusive elements of ‘character’. But most important is the very ‘richness of cities’, so well captured in the 1999 report with this title by Worpole and Greenhalgh. What is conspicuously missing from much of the debate is the question of the acceptability of increased densities (urban compaction). It is not easy to measure this in any straightforward way since the term is capable of varying interpretations, but a good proxy is provided by the findings of the authoritative DoEsponsored Housing Attitudes Survey (Hedges and Clemens 1994). This showed ‘central urban dwellers to be much less satisfied than those in the suburbs, and these again less than those in rural areas’. This finding is reinforced by the analysis of population density, ‘which shows a marked inverse relationship between satisfaction and density’.12 The survey also showed a clear preference for houses rather than flats. This can hardly be surprising, since this has been a consistent finding of housing research, but the issue has gained prominence in view of the very large increase in oneperson households shown in the household projections (who make up three-quarters of the total increase). Though it may seem reasonable to assume that many of these will want small dwellings, possibly in flats, the evidence is that the greater part of the demand

is for houses with gardens (Hooper et al. 1998). ‘A preference for a flat starts at 11 per cent, falls to 1 per cent as the family grows, and then climbs to 31 per cent among single older people’ (Hedges and Clemens 1994). The 1996 White Paper Household Growth: Where Shall We Live? concluded that despite the increase in small households, ‘there is little evidence of any increase in demand for smaller housing units; there has, moreover, been a decline in one bedroom houses and flats completed in the last ten years, and a growth in the number of larger houses (four bedrooms)’. Even more persuasive is the fact of long-term decentralisation from the cities. This has eased the traditional problems of cities, though it has proved difficult to attune policies to the problems which remain. Movement out of the cities has been a dominant feature of demographic and economic geography for a century. (However, it should be stressed that the arithmetic of this is usually expressed in net terms, ignoring the fact that people are moving into as well as out of urban areas.) Much of the debate on the urban renaissance is couched in terms of redevelopment of the inner city, ignoring the problems and opportunities of the suburbs (where the majority of people live and where much development activity has been concentrated during the 1990s). The suburbs do not typically need




large-scale redevelopment plans but, as a Civic Trust study shows, they can be in need of careful improvement to arrest decline and to enable them ‘to play a more positive and sustainable role within city regions’ (Gwilliam et al. 1998). There are also a variety of measures that can improve both suburban and inner-city environments while, at the same time, providing additional housing. Policies in relation to empty properties can clearly make a modest but useful contribution to both, as the work of the Empty Homes Agency (Plank 1998) demonstrates.13 The LOTS (‘living over the shop’) scheme was less successful, largely because of the lengthy and often difficult negotiations required with the owners of the shop! It does, however, have potential when included as an element of wider-based regeneration schemes.14 In addition to housing issues, a relatively neglected matter is that of the geography of jobs. Though there are no figures on this for recent years, employment in the 1980s showed an employment exodus from urban areas. Is this continuing? Patterns of commuting have become more complex, and there is now suburb-tosuburb and even city-to-suburb commuting. There are many questions here, and few answers. As more housing is provided in the cities (often involving the replacement of places of employment), will reverse commuting grow? Does this matter? Is there a need for policy intervention, and could this prove practicable? Such questions are being addressed in an ongoing TCPA project (Breheny 1999b). In the meantime, there is a more urgent issue of unemployment among innercity residents. Continued replacement and conversion of industrial, warehousing, and office buildings will further reduce restricted employment opportunities.


Demographic analysis and forecasting are crucial to any method of determining housing needs and land requirements. Projections of households are made on a periodic basis by the Government Statistical Service. Until quite recently these were widely accepted as a basis for policy. The national figures are used by the central department to determine regional and county

housing requirements. Concern about these projections grew in the 1980s, particularly in the South-East, ‘where years of continuous housing development have generated a militant resistance to what are seen as excessive impositions of yet further housing development’ (Breheny 1997). The household projections for the period 1991–2016, published in 1995, gave rise to an even more vociferous and wider debate, which was kept informed by a series of CPRE publications that strenuously put forward the case both for protecting the countryside against housing development and for disparaging the methodology used in the official household projections.15. The press also took up the popular outcry and led a ‘greenfield campaign’. There were sufficient legitimate grounds of criticism in their arguments for them to be credible, particularly among those who were convinced of their conclusions. A DETR research project reinforced some of these criticisms: for example, that the projections ‘extrapolate forward past trends in a technically complex way, but take limited account of the underlying causal processes or relationships that might affect the rates at which households form’ (Bramley et al. 1997). The official household projections are now more than a technical input to the planning system: they are matters of widespread controversy. Particularly attractive to critics are two points: first, that no projections are wholly satisfactory; and second, that housing supply does have some effect on household formation. This latter point is popularly viewed in terms which are similar to the now accepted argument that new roads generate traffic. Thus the shortcomings of ‘predict and provide’ which were seen to be valid in relation to roads were translated into housing terms: more houses lead to more households in the same manner as more roads lead to more traffic. This appealing (and greatly exaggerated) argument has been taken over in the government’s redesign of the arrangements for determining housebuilding needs at regional and local authority level (DETR, Planning for the Communities of the Future, 1998). In place of ‘predict and provide’ there is now ‘plan, monitor and manage’. This is a neat piece of political semantics, which appears to mean that both the assessment of housing requirements and its distribution within the region should be


kept under review, and if there are signs of either under- or over-provision, both RPG and development plans should be reviewed accordingly.16 It remains to be seen if this makes any real difference. Interestingly, in his evidence to the Select Committee, the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, gave his view that it did not: ‘I do not think that planning, predict and provide is contradictory to planning, monitoring and managing; one is a process and the other one is how you achieve it’.17 More fundamentally, the arguments about household predictions reflect a widespread opposition to change. This is a compound of a desire to maintain existing amenities, fears of increased traffic and congestion, and the traditionally strong countryside preservation ethic. The battles over the latest regional planning policy statements (RPG) amply illustrate this. They are dressed up in emotive and vague slogans which confuse the issues. Thus the draft RPG for the South-East18 states that ‘the countryside should be more strongly protected from inappropriate development’, but, as the Panel report on the public examination pointed out, though this sounds incontrovertible at first blush, the use of the term ‘inappropriate’ without qualification begs the question of what is inappropriate. The report continues: All too often we found that it simply meant any form of urban expansion, particularly for house building. Whilst it must be an objective to minimise the loss of countryside to urban expansion, we do not consider that this one objective should dominate all others. It should not result in denying the opportunity of a decent home for all who desire one in the region, nor should it stand in the way of economic success, nor – and we see this as a particular danger – should it compromise real urban renaissance by providing an excuse for town cramming. . . . If urban concentration is forced upon towns for reason of preserving countryside and without due balance of the other elements of urban renaissance, then the cities and towns will simply become worse places to live in, and the pressures on the countryside will be unnecessarily increased.19

This critique of the anti-development stance taken by SERPLAN and the local authorities in the South-East permeates the Panel’s report. The housebuilding strategy proposed in the draft PPG interprets ‘plan,

monitor and manage’ to mean ‘short-term incremental decisions of planning to meet need as and when it arises’. (As a result, it proposes a baseline housing provision of 862,000 dwellings between 1991 and 2016, with increases to this figure as needed; the Panel proposed a figure of 1.1 million for this period.20) In the Panel’s view, this is ‘the antithesis of a plan-led system’. The essence of planning lies in taking a view of what is likely to happen in the future and planning to meet it. It continues: The SERPLAN approach, in our view, will serve only to perpetuate planning by appeal resulting on the ground in disjointed increments of added on development in apparently random locations with little coherence to the established structures of towns nor genuine opportunities for their development to be accompanied by planning extension of public transport and other infrastructure. This is not a sustainable way to meet development needs, and it is hardly surprising that it attracts so much opposition from local people when it occurs.21

The SERPLAN strategy is by no means unusual: indeed, it typifies much of current planning for development needs. It reflects public opinion, and presents a major problem for central government. It is difficult to see how responsible planning at the regional level can be squared with planning which is responsive to public opinion. Nevertheless, there does seem to be a genuine desire to move to a ‘bottom-up approach’ to the estimation of housing requirements. One reason for this is that it is difficult to predict migration across regional boundaries, especially in the long term. Migration flows can change with economic conditions, and indeed in some areas there may be cross-regional influences from more than one direction. (The East Midlands, for example, has been simultaneously experiencing development pressures from the South-East, West Midlands, Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire. In the North, pressures have crossed county boundaries from West Yorkshire to North Yorkshire.) As a result, All this strongly underlines the need for a flexible twostage approach: we must plan to meet medium-term (15–20-year) projections, while recognising that in the short term conditions may vary greatly. This means that land allocations need to be established in regional guidance and structure plans to meet longer-term needs,



TOWN AND COUNTRY PLANNING IN THE UK while releases from those allocations are made locally according to a system of close year-by-year monitoring agreed by the authorities with each regional conference. (Breheny and Hall 1996: 45)

Much of the opposition to the household projections is concentrated in the South. This is, at least in part, due to the fact that migration from the North to this region has markedly increased housing demand in this part of England. Indeed, ‘the speed of migration appears to have significantly increased with the upturn in the economy since 1993’.22 The government’s concern for intra-regional policy is not matched by its action on inter-regional issues.23 Indeed, the essential remit of the regional development agencies is the fostering of regional economic development, and accordingly this is being fostered in the South-East, as in the other regions.24 There is also a marked movement out of the urban areas, which has brought about a repopulation of small towns in the countryside. As Peter Hall has pointed out, ‘already by the 1980s, the map of population change was the exact reverse of the equivalent map of the 1890s: the counties and the districts that were then

suffering the biggest population losses have become the areas with the biggest gains’ (Hall and Ward 1998: 106). What is interesting about this centrifugal movement is what Champion and Atkins have termed ‘the counterurbanisation cascade’. As can be seen from Table 6.3, ‘at the beginning of the 1990s, migration within Britain was producing a clear redistribution of population down the settlement hierarchy from larger metropolitan areas to medium-sized and smaller cities and towns and more rural areas’ (Champion and Atkins 1996: 26).25 However, the 2000 Urban White Paper notes that during the late 1990s there were indications of a slowing of population decline in the metropolitan areas, and some were even growing, particularly London. Migration has not, however, been at a level to bring about any general collapse of housing demand in the north of England, but it has led to increased ‘departures and higher vacancies in local authority housing and has produced local surpluses in the least popular localities’ (Holmans and Simpson 1999). It is also important to note that it is in the older industrial cities of the North that the greatest scope exists for the

Table 6.3 Population Changes Resulting from Within-Britain Migration 1990–91 District type

Population number

Net migration number

Net migration percentage

METROPOLITAN BRITAIN Inner London Outer London Principal metropolitan cities Other metropolitan districts

19,030,230 2,504,451 4,175,248 3,922,670 8,427,861

-85,379 -31,009 -21,159 -26,311 -6,900

–0.45 –1.24 –0.51 –0.67 –0.08

NON-METROPOLITAN BRITAIN Large non-metropolitan cities Small non-metropolitan cities Industrial districts Districts with new towns Resort, port and retirement Urban–rural mixed Remote urban–rural Remote rural Most remote rural

35,858,614 3,493,284 1,861,351 7,475,515 2,838,258 3,591,972 7,918,701 2,302,925 1,645,330 4,731,278

85,379 -14,040 -7,812 7,194 2,627 17,736 19,537 13,665 10,022 36,450

0.24 –0.40 –0.42 0.10 0.09 0.49 0.25 0.59 0.61 0.77

Source: Champion and Atkins (1996) and Hall and Ward (1998: 106)

LAND POLICIES Table 6.4 Population of the UK 1981–97, and Projected 2001–2021 (in millions) 1981



Projected 2001

Projected 2011

Projected 2021





















N. Ireland















Source: Annual Abstract of Statistics 1999 (Table 5.1)

BOX 6.4


The number of households in England is projected to grow from 20.2 million in 1996 to about 24.0 million in 2021, an increase of 3.8 million or about 150,000 households per year. Slightly more than three-quarters of the projected increase in the number of households can be attributed to changes in the size and age structure of the adult population. The South East, East of England and the South West are all projected to have around a quarter more households in 2021 than in 1996. For London and the East Midlands growth is around a fifth, and in

other areas projected growth is significantly lower. The North East has the lowest projected growth of just 8 per cent. If international migration increased or decreased by 40 thousand per annum over the projected period, this could mean a projected change at national level at 2021 of over 0.4 million households. Similarly, if real interest rates throughout the period were one percentage point higher or lower, the projected number of households in 2021 could change by 0.2 million.

Source: DETR (1999) Projections of Households in England to 2021 (selected passages from pp. 5–6)

development of brownfield sites. In the newer, less industrialised locations, the prospects for recycling are the poorest.26 Geographical factors are not the only important issues: others include the state of the local economy, and also the ‘flow’ of previously developed sites.27


The conclusion of the new towns programmes, coupled with increasing concern with the ‘land for housing’

problem, naturally prompted debate on additional new towns. The TCPA had traditionally maintained that this should be a major plank in regional policy but, during the 1980s, against the background of a buoyant housing market, proposals came from the private sector for private enterprise new towns that would fill the gap left by the completion of the existing new towns. The best known of these came from the now disbanded Consortium Developments, which proposed a ring of new villages around the South-East which would form ‘balanced communities’ developed to high standards of design.



TOWN AND COUNTRY PLANNING IN THE UK Consortium Developments Ltd, by working on a relatively large scale, can negotiate a keen price that allows investment in a quality product: a high quality infrastructure in the paving and road surfaces, high quality landscaping, sensitive design of public spaces, variety in both form and tenure of housing provision, and a wide range of supporting facilities. (Roche 1986: 312)

These were words in the direct tradition of the new towns movement, but their spokespersons now had to contend with a sophisticated planning machine. Proposals for Foxley Wood in Hampshire, Stone Bassett in Oxfordshire, Westmere in Cambridgeshire, and Tillingham Hall in Essex were all rejected on appeal. As Hebbert (1992: 178) comments, their experience ‘demonstrated that even the presence of the most radical free enterprise British government of recent times is no guarantor of profitable large scale private developments in green field sites’. However, they have not been completely ruled out: the 1992 version of PPG 3 notes (with no conscious irony) that there had now been ‘considerable experience of planning proposals [sic] for new settlements’ which had ‘almost invariably been deeply controversial’. It advised that future proposals should be contemplated only in cases where they represented a clear expression of local preference supported by local planning authorities. Politically, the importance attached to ‘local choice’ effectively meant that any proposal for a new settlement was likely to be killed, though a study was commissioned of ‘alternative development patterns for new settlements.’28 The analysis of the differing types of development did not go very far in demonstrating the superiority of any one type of development over another.29 This is not surprising: general issues of urban form are of limited practical value since the real problems are not general but site specific. The advantages and disadvantages of particular development forms vary according to the features of alternative sites and their location in a specific subregion (and, with larger development, perhaps the wider region as well). They will vary also according to the size, character, and purpose of the development, its transport links and potentialities, and its present and future relationships with the surrounding areas. Additionally, there are

issues of finance, administration, politics, and suchlike that can prove to be of decisive importance. All these (and no doubt other) factors combine to make generalisations highly problematic, and thus any major development proposal requires thorough and lengthy study and negotiation. Given the high sensitivity to development almost anywhere (no doubt increased by the generally poor quality of design), it is not surprising that proposers of new settlements have had a very tough time making any progress at all. (An American environmental acronym points to the problem: BANANA – Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything.) In the meantime, development has proceeded (or did not proceed) on particular sites for which builders sought planning permission. This non-planning approach was checked by a process that contained one or more of the elements of strong local opposition, public inquiries, and ministerial decisions. Somewhere buried in this process was a vestige of planning policy, but it was a hit-or-miss affair. Certainly, it was a far cry from positive planning or ensuring that the right development went ahead at the right place at the right time. But, of course, the basic dominant political philosophy not only was unsympathetic to ‘planning policies’, but held that market mechanisms were superior. And so little progress was made in fashioning the planning system to the needs of the time. The question now is what difference a new government is making. It is too soon to attempt to answer this question. Much thought has been given to recasting the planning system, both procedurally and substantively, but the difficulties are all too apparent. Major changes involve either huge public expenditure, particularly on infrastructure, or strong opposition from vested interests. New settlements would encounter both. As a result, there has been little change in the attitude to new settlements on the part of the Blair government, though the revised PPG 3 (2000) is arguably slightly more positive: The Government is not against new settlements and believes that in the right location and with the right concept, they can make a contribution to meeting the need for housing. However, the cost of developing a new

LAND POLICIES community from scratch, including the full range of new services and infrastructure, means that they will not always be a viable solution. New settlements will not be acceptable if their principal function is as a dormitory of an existing settlement. New settlements, whether largescale additions to existing settlements or completely new, may under certain circumstances prove to be a sustainable development where • they are large enough to support a range of local services, including schools, shops and employment; • they exploit existing or proposed public transport by locating in a good quality public transport corridor; • they can make use of previously used land; and • there is no more sustainable alternative.

Proposals for ‘larger new settlements’ have to be brought forward through the new regional guidance machinery (discussed in Chapter 3). It is warned that ‘proposals for new settlements will be controversial and all schemes will need to be agreed between the tiers of plan-making authorities’. That this warning is fully justified is illustrated in the declaration of the Sane Planning in the South-East protest group: The Sane Planning in the South East protest group have presented to the Secretary of State a declaration to mark the tenth anniversary of the protest against Foxley Wood (when an effigy of the then Secretary of State was burned). The group maintains that new settlements still have no place in the South East. (Planning 30 July 1999)

More favoured are planned extensions to existing urban areas. Indeed, it is even contemplated that green belt boundaries may have to be reviewed where possibilities for development within urban areas are limited. However, the Panel Report on the South East Draft Regional Planning Guidance proposed that ‘areas of plan-led expansion should be designated in Ashford, the Milton Keynes/Bedford/Northampton triangle, the Crawley/Gatwick area, and an area close to Stansted.30 Though the report does not suggest any special mechanism for the last three of these, for Ashford it comments that ‘substantial town expansion, possibly up to a population of 150,000, should be assisted by action under new town legislation’.


The policy of maintaining an adequate supply of land for housing can be difficult to reconcile with policies relating to green belts and the safeguarding of agricultural land. Though 1987 saw a major policy shift on the latter (which is discussed later), green belts have, for a variety of reasons, remained a strong policy issue for both central and local government, well supported by public opinion. Green belt policy emerged in 1955 after the expression of considerable concern at the implications for urban growth of the expanded house building programme. Unusually, the policy can be identified with a particular minister, Duncan Sandys (who later made another contribution to planning with the promotion of the Civic Trust and the Civic Amenities Act). Sandys’ personal commitment involved disagreement with his senior civil servants, who advised that it would arouse opposition from the urban local authorities and private developers who would be forced to seek sites beyond the green belt. Experience with the Town Development Act (which provided for negotiated schemes of ‘overspill’ from congested urban areas to towns wishing to expand) did not suggest that it would be easy to find sufficient sites. Sandys, however, was adamant, and a circular was issued asking local planning authorities to consider the formal designation of clearly defined green belts wherever this was desirable in order to check the physical growth of a large built-up area; to prevent neighbouring towns from merging into one another; or to preserve the special character of a town. The policy had widespread appeal, not only to county councils, which now had another weapon in their armoury to fight expansionist urban authorities, but also more widely. One planning officer commented that ‘probably no planning circular and all that it implies has ever been so popular with the public. The idea has caught on and is supported by people of all shades of interest.’ Another noted that ‘the very expression green belt sounds like something an ordinary man may find it worthwhile to be interested in who may find no appeal whatever in “the distribution of industrial population” or “decentralisation”. . . . Green




belt has a natural faculty for engendering support’ (Elson 1986: 269). The green belt also formed a tangible focal point for what is now called the environmental lobby. However, initially its biggest support came from the planning profession, which in those days still saw planning in terms of tidy spatial ordering of land uses. Desmond Heap, in his 1955 presidential address to the (then) Town Planning Institute, went so far as to declare that the preservation of green belts was ‘the very raison d’être of town and country planning’. Their popularity, however, has not made it any easier to reconcile conservation and development. The green belt policy commands even wider support today than it did in the 1950s. Elson concluded his 1986 study with a discussion of why this is so: It acts to foster rather than hinder the material and nonmaterial interests of most groups involved in the planning process, although it may be to the short term tactical advantage of some not to recognise the fact. To central government it assists in the essential tasks on interest mediation and compromise which planning policymaking represents. . . . To local government it delivers a desirable mix of policy control with discretion. To local residents of the outer city it remains their best form of protection against rapid change. To the inner city local authority it offers at least the promise of retaining some economic activities that would otherwise leave the area; and to the inner city resident it offers the prospect, as well as often the reality, of countryside recreation and relaxation. To the agriculturist it offers a basic form of protection against urban influences, and for the minerals industry it retains accessible, cheap, and exploitable natural resources. Industrial developers and housebuilder complain bitterly about the rate at which land is fed into the development pipeline, yet at the same time are dependent on planning to provide a degree of certainty and support for profitable investment. Planning may be an attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable, but green belt is one of the most successful all-purpose tools invented with which to try. (Elson 1986: 264)

The latest policy statement on green belts in England (the revised PPG 2 of 1995) confirms the validity and permanence of the green belts policy. Green belts, now cover over one and a half million hectares (12 per cent) of England. The general location of the green belts is shown in Figure 6.5. Table 6.5

and Table 6.6 give the area of green belt in England and Scotland respectively. Until recently there has been no formal green belt policy in Wales. However, the Welsh planning guidance is encouraging them in the most heavily populated areas. A proposal for the first green belt, between Newport and Cardiff, was included in the draft UDP for Newport. The 1993 study by Elson et al., which was undertaken at a time when the earlier (1988) PPG 2 was operative, concluded that the green belts had been successful in checking unrestricted sprawl and in preventing towns from merging. Green belt boundary alterations in development plans had affected less than 0.3 per cent of green belts in the areas studied over an eight-year period. Most planning approvals in green belts had been for small-scale changes which had no significant effect on the open rural appearance of green belts. The appeal system had strongly upheld green belt policy. The relationship between green belt restraint and the preservation of the special character of historic towns was much more difficult to evaluate. Though the idea had ‘a well-established pedigree’, and though the green belt boundaries were particularly tight, there was little evidence to connect policy and outcomes. It was difficult also to assess how far green belts had assisted in urban regeneration. Though the green belts did ‘focus development interest on sites in urban areas’, local authorities tended to regard the creation of jobs as more important than any land development objective per se. Indeed, urban regeneration was often seen as requiring the selective release of employment sites in the green belt. The supply of adequate sites within urban areas was not sufficient for development needs (though it might be increased by an expanded programme of land reclamation). Moreover, refusal to allow development on the periphery of an urban area could lead to leap-frogging beyond the green belt, or development by the intensification of uses in towns located within the green belt. A note is made of the suggestion that ‘the inner city will rarely be a substitute location for uses seeking planning permission on the urban fringe: The housing market potential in the two locations is quite different (in terms of the size and price range of houses


Key Aberdeen

Green Belt Urban areas

Falkirk/ Grangemouth Edinburgh

Greater Glasgow

Ayr/Prestwick Newcastle upon Tyne

York Blackburn

Leeds Manchester Sheffield



Stoke on Trent Derby Birmingham

Coventry Cambridge

Gloucester Oxford London




Figure 6.1 Green Belts in the UK





250 Kilometres



TOWN AND COUNTRY PLANNING IN THE UK which may be marketed for example), and many of those developing other uses require the better accessibility (normally by private car) which a peripheral or outer location affords. (Elson et al. 1993: para. 2.37)

There was seen to be a clear need for further research here. One piece of DoE-sponsored research on the green belt which is particularly striking was undertaken on the Oxfordshire settlement strategy, which concentrates development in selected country towns beyond the Oxford green belt. It was intended that this would facilitate the provision of public transport. Things worked out very differently. A study of travel

Green belt area hectares


Green belt area (hectares) Aberdeen Ayr/Prestwick & Troon Clackmannan Edinburgh Falkirk/Grangemouth Glasgow

23,039 3,024 981 15,869 3,803 109,917



Figures supplied by the Scottish Executive Development Department

Table 6.5 Green Belts, England, 1997

Tyne and Wear York South and West Yorkshire North-West Stoke-on-Trent Nottingham and Derby Burton and Swadlincote West Midlands Cambridge Gloucester and Cheltenham Oxford London Avon SW Hampshire and SE Dorset

Table 6.6 Green Belts, Scotland, 1999

52,500 25,400 252,800 251,700 44,100 62,000 700 230,400 26,700 7,000 35,100 512,900 68,500 82,300 1,652,300

Source: DETR Information Bulletin 1183, December 1999, Green Belt Statistics: England 1997 Notes: North-West includes Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Cheshire, and Lancashire; London excludes metropolitan open land; SW Hampshire and SE Dorset includes the New Forest area. The 1997 green belt statistics for England cannot be compared with earlier figures since they are based on a new and more accurate methodology. Details are given in Green Belt Statistics: England 1997, DETR Information Bulletin 1183, 8 December 1999.

patterns of the new residents in three of these towns (Bicester, Didcot, and Witney) reveals high travel distances, high levels of car use, little use of public transport, and almost 90 per cent of employed residents travelling to work outside the town. By contrast, a new housing development on the edge of Oxford has far less car travel since the public transport system provides a better alternative. The DoE report laconically comments that ‘these conclusions suggest that local authorities will need to consider carefully the regional dimension of location planning, and the transport policies applied in individual settlements’ (DoE 1995, Reducing the Need to Travel through Land Use and Transport Planning). The same story can be told of many other places beyond the green belt. In Scotland, green belts have been established around Aberdeen, Ayr/Prestwick, Edinburgh, Falkirk/ Grangemouth, and Glasgow. Interestingly, the Dundee green belt has been replaced by a general countryside policy (Regional Studies Association 1990: 22). Scottish green belts have had somewhat wider purposes than those in England: these include maintaining the identity of towns by establishing a clear definition of their physical boundaries and preventing coalescence; providing for countryside recreation and institutional uses of various kinds; and maintaining the landscape setting of towns. There is a greater emphasis on the



Use of Land in Green Belts:

• to check the unrestricted sprawl of large builtup areas; • to prevent neighbouring towns from merging into one another; • to assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment; • to preserve the setting and special character of historic towns; and • to assist in urban regeneration, by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land.

• to provide opportunities for access to the open countryside for the urban population; • to provide opportunities for outdoor sport and outdoor recreation near urban areas; • to retain attractive landscapes, and enhance landscapes near to where people live; • to improve damaged and derelict land around towns; • to secure nature conservation interest; and • to retain land in agricultural, forestry, and related uses.

Source: PPG 2, Green Belts environmental functions of the green belts, and recreation is included as a primary objective. The title of the Scottish circular (24/85) is significant: Development in the Countryside and Green Belts, underlining the links between general countryside policies and green belts. ‘As a result, a much more integrated approach to the planning of green belt and non-green belt areas is achieved in Scotland.’ The Regional Studies Association study commends the Scottish approach, arguing that ‘green belts have become an outmoded and largely irrelevant mechanism for handling the complexity of future change in the city’s countryside’. Green belts are the first article of the British planning creed. They are hallowed by use, popular support, and fears of what would happen if they were ‘weakened’. Fierce arguments are waged by a wide range of groups from national bodies such as the CPRE to local green belt residents. There are, however, other issues which do not attract the same concern, such as the costs imposed by green belts, and the inadequacy of a planning policy which lays such a great emphasis on protection and a lesser emphasis on instruments for meeting development needs. On this line of argument, green belts should be part of a more comprehensive land use/transport policy.

In this connection the more recent articulation of green belt policy in Wales is noteworthy (TewdwrJones 1997). There has been increasing pressure from environmentalists for the establishment of green belts around the main urban areas which are under development pressure, and the 1999 planning guidance for Wales set out guidelines. Though these echo the points set out in the English PPG, they also emphasise the importance of development land: When considering green belt designation, local planning authorities will need to ensure that a sufficient range of development land is available which is suitably located in relation to the existing urban edge and the proposed green belt, bearing in mind the longer term need for development land, the effects of development pressure in areas beyond the green belt and the need to minimise the need to travel.

Moreover, the Welsh policy requires that local authorities must justify the need for such areas – must demonstrate why normal planning and development control policies, including green barrier/green wedge policies, would not be adequate. Thus the rationale for designation is far stricter than in England. As in England, the debate on Welsh green belts largely ignores the issue of managing the countryside within green belts, though both specifically refer to




opportunities for access and for outdoor sport and outdoor recreation. These do not figure significantly in the public debate: the overwhelming concern is with preventing development.31.


Out-of-town shopping centres have been blamed for weakening or even killing off traditional town centres and for increasing car travel (and its accompanying pollution). On the other hand, they are clearly popular in themselves, and on a market test are successful. However, concern for the decline of the centres of smaller towns has led to initiatives to promote ‘vital and viable town centres’ and as well as stronger planning controls under PPG 6 (1993, revised 1996). The publication of the revised PPG 6 in 1996, following the 1994 PPG on transport, marked the end of laissez-faire policies (Truelove 1999: 207). Since then, controls over out-of-town shopping centres have become increasingly strict (strongly supported by the House of Commons Environment Committee32). Official policies are designed to serve several objectives:

exactly these effects, since new competitors are seldom allowed. Translated into practical terms, current policies are based on a sequential approach which gives first priority to town centre sites, followed by edge-ofcentre sites, district, and local centres, ‘and only then out-of-centre sites in locations that are accessible by a choice of means of transport’. To quote PPG 6 (Town Centres and Retail Development, para. 3.13): In the case of many smaller centres, particularly historic towns, the best solution may be an edge-of-centre foodstore with parking facilities, which enables car-borne shoppers to walk to the centre for their other business in town, and shoppers who arrive in the centre by means of other means of transport to walk to the store. One trip can thus serve several purposes, and the new shop is likely to help the economic strength of the existing town centre, be accessible to people without cars and overall generate less car use.

• to sustain and enhance the vitality and viability of town centres; • to focus development, especially retail development, in locations where the proximity of businesses facilitates competition from which all consumers are able to benefit and maximises the opportunity to use means of transport other than the car; • to maintain an efficient, competitive, and innovative retail sector; and • to ensure the availability of a wide range of shops, employment, services, and facilities to which people have easy access by a choice of means of transport.

Students of planning appeals will know what arguments can rage over such an apparently simple statement. First, how is ‘edge of town’ to be defined? A proposal by Sainsbury’s to build a store on a redundant site in Brighton was rejected on appeal on grounds which included its location being not genuinely on the edge of town. It was 145 metres from the primary shopping area (Planning 16 October 1998). Second, what evidence is there that proximity to the town centre will have the benefits that are claimed? A study for the DoE suggested (on the rather small sample of two case studies) that ‘in terms of linked trips, edge-of-centre stores do not necessarily generate significantly higher degrees of linkage with town/ district centres than out-of-centre stores’.33 There are many issues of this kind which beset the seeker after the truth of PPGs. The latest in what is a long saga of court cases revolves around the concept of ‘need’. The situation became so confused that the Planning Minister (Richard Caborn at the time) issued a ‘clarification’. It is worth looking at this:

As a disclaimer, it is stressed that ‘it is not the role of the planning system to restrict competition, preserve existing commercial interests, or to prevent innovation’. But, of course, the impact of policy may have

[T]he requirement to demonstrate ‘need’ should not be regarded as being fulfilled simply by showing that there is capacity (in physical terms) or demand (in terms of available expenditure within the proposals catchment area) for the proposed development. Whilst the existence

LAND POLICIES of capacity or demand may form part of the demonstration of need, the significance in any particular case of the factors which may show need will be a matter for the decision-taker.

This requires several readings before one realises that it means (in David Lock’s words) that ‘you must prove “need”, but the Government will not tell you whether you have succeeded until you have succeeded’ (Lock 1999). As a manager from Sainsbury’s has pointed out, the one thing that is clear, however, is that the Minister has certainly provided the lawyers with potentially rich pickings when arguing about how need is defined and by whom (H. Williams 1999). These issues have been set out here at some length, not because they are exceptional, but because they are the very stuff of planning arguments. As with the debates on ‘vital and viable’ town centres, these can mask secular social and economic trends such as changes in retail trading patterns and distribution, changes in trading laws (as with the relaxation of the Sunday trading laws, which affect small retailers much more than the superstores), changes in branch banking, and (still unclear) the effect of the Internet on buying patterns.


Some of the estimates for vacant and derelict land have been discussed above in the context of urban capacity studies. Here the focus is on the nature of this land, and the policies that have evolved to deal with it. Much land that was once useful and productive has become waste land, particularly in the inner cities and in mining areas. It is unsightly, unwanted, and, at worst, derelict and dangerous. The planning system is not designed to deal with such land easily: its essential characteristic is to allocate land between competing uses. Where there are no pressures for development, there is a severe limit to what can be done, especially when the amount of waste land is large, as it is in older industrial areas. Major efforts have been made to deal with the problems. Between 1988 and 1993 some 9,500 hectares of derelict land was reclaimed. Unfortunately, a large amount of new dereliction is

continually being created, and the result is that the total amount remains high. Though the amount of derelict land in England decreased by 2 per cent between 1988 and 1993, the 1993 Derelict Land Survey showed a total of 39,600 hectares of derelict land at the latter date. Unfortunately, this was the last year in which the survey was undertaken. The latest figure, from the National Land Use Database in 1999, is 17,000 hectares of derelict land and 16,000 hectares of previously developed vacant land (though this is not completely comparable and possibly is an underestimate).34 This is an area about twice the size of the whole of the city of Glasgow. Reclamation policies have changed over the years. Originally the objective was to remove eyesores and potential dangers caused by spoil heaps and other waste. Much of this was located in rural areas, and the policy was to return the land to agriculture or forestry, or to make it available for public open space (known in the jargon as a ‘soft end-use’). Since the 1980s, emphasis has shifted to ‘hard end-uses’ such as industrial, commercial, or residential development, particularly in older urban areas. Increasingly, the focus has been on brownfield sites for housing development as a favoured alternative to greenfield sites. A range of policy instruments to deal with derelict land have been developed. Some of these have been part of broader policies in relation to urban regeneration (through urban development corporations, enterprise zones, and the Urban Programme). Vacant land is conceptually different from derelict land, though the two categories can overlap.35 Research shows that land vacancy is typically a transient feature of the environment. Though much of it has been vacant for a long time (two-thirds of a sample had been vacant for more than twelve years), some of this idle land – perhaps a third – can be used when subsidies are paid to overcome physical constraints. However, some vacant land – perhaps two-thirds – is so because of institutional factors, owners’ intentions, or poor demand. As the evaluation study explained, Many sites remain vacant for non-physical reasons. Some are delayed by the legitimate workings of the planning system, and by legal and other institutional difficulties. Existing policy instruments can do little to overcome



TOWN AND COUNTRY PLANNING IN THE UK these difficulties. Others are delayed by owners’, particularly private sector owners’, intentions that they should remain vacant for various (largely obscure) reasons. (Whitbread et al. 1991, para. 3.147).

An earlier report suggested a long list of reasons why vacant land is not put to temporary uses: expenditure by the owner would be needed to meet fire, safety, and insurance requirements, in providing access, and in site clearance; temporary tenants tend to be unreliable and to cause environmental problems; demand from temporary users is deficient and uncertain, and often provides landowners with a very low financial return; there are often problems in securing vacant possession; landowners may be unaware of the potential of temporary uses; or they may think that keeping sites vacant preserves existing use rights, or puts pressure on local authorities to grant planning consent for development (Cameron et al. 1988). Much of this land is in private ownership and, short of compulsory acquisition, there is little that ‘policy’ can do to speed up the reuse of the land.36 But these are the failures; more striking are the undoubted successes of other policy instruments, of which the evaluation study counted thirteen (ranging from grant-aid to planning and promotional action by local authorities). Foremost among these was the Derelict Land Grant programme, which was replaced by the English Partnerships Land Reclamation Programme, and which in turn has been transferred to the new Regional Development Agencies. Before discussing this, it is relevant to note another policy initiative which failed and which has been overtaken by this same programme. This concerns contaminated land (see below). A new category of vacant land is redundant military land. The ‘peace dividend’ following the demise of communism in Russia and certain European states has generated significant amounts of land in the Ministry of Defence Estate, and has closed some US Air Force bases in the UK.37 Much of this land is located in rural areas or economically depressed urban areas (including former naval dockyards). Disposal of MoD land is subject to the Crichel Down rules requiring surplus land to be offered back to the original owners at current market values. Such values will take into

account the conditions of the site, which may be contaminated. Many sites also contain listed buildings, monuments, and environmental and landscape designations that will affect reuse. The MoD is required to maximise income from disposals, which typically leads to proposals for new housing.


There is no clear line between vacant, derelict, and contaminated land (or neglected, underused, waste, and despoiled land). The terms are used in different ways, sometimes for different purposes, sometimes with the same or similar meanings (and new terms arise from time to time, such as ‘previously used land’ and ‘brownfield sites’). Contaminated land is particularly difficult to define, though the term is commonly used to imply the existence of a hazard to public health. The 1995 Environment Act introduced a new definition which incorporates this long-standing idea. Though there is an overlap with ‘derelict’ land, there are important differences. A chemical waste tip may be both derelict and contaminated; a disused chalk quarry may be derelict but not contaminated; an active chemical factory may be contaminated but not derelict. It is the additional health danger which is the characteristic feature of contaminated land, and this also implies a severe degree of pollution and, typically, an increased difficulty in abating it. However, the health risk arises only in relation to the use to which the land is to be put. A piece of land may pose no risk if used for one purpose, but a severe risk if it is used for another. The site of an oil refinery may be contaminated, but that is of no consequence if no other use is intended (and assuming that there are no effects beyond the site). ‘A scrapyard contaminated by metal traces would constitute a hazard for subsequent agricultural use, but the contamination would be of no account in the construction of an office block’.38 Partly because of a characteristically pragmatic approach, there has never been an attempt to quantify the amount of contaminated land in Britain. Instead of identifying contaminated land and then determining appropriate policies for dealing with it, the


British approach has been to regard contamination as a general concept which is given substance only in relation to particular sites and particular end-uses. The nature of policy flows from this: ‘Policy is to ensure that the quality of land is fit for the purpose to which it is being or will be used.’ There is no requirement for land to be brought up to a minimum quality standard regardless of use, unless that land poses a threat to the public health or the environment. The House of Commons Environment Committee considered this approach to be inadequate since (in its judgement) there is land which is so contaminated that it is ‘a threat to health and the environment both on site and in the surrounding area’. The Committee also recommended that local authorities should be given a duty ‘to seek out and compile registers of contaminated land’. There was a remarkably swift response to this: the Environment Protection Bill was amended to provide such a duty. The implementation of this, however, rapidly ran into severe difficulties, and the initial proposals had to be drastically changed.39 The problem underlying all this is that it is relatively simple to register land that is possibly contaminated, but extremely labourious and costly to identify land that is in fact contaminated. Even at the low rate of £15,000 per hectare, it would cost around £600 million merely to investigate the 40,000 hectares of land identified in the 1988 Derelict Land Survey (Thompson 1992: 22). To cover all relevant land would cost many times this amount, and would take many years to complete.40 It was because of difficulties such as these that the government was eventually forced to abandon the scheme as originally envisaged. The difficulties of changing from the traditional British reactive approach to a genuinely proactive approach are manifest (A. Harrison 1992: 809). However, a renewed attempt was made in 2000. The revised provisions are set out in the long and complex Circular 02/2000.41 It will take some time for the implications of the new regime to be understood. Suffice it to say at this stage that they will create a regime to enforce remediation on certain contaminated sites where there is a serious degree of health or environmental

risk and where there is a justification for requiring compulsory remediation. Compulsory remediation is a drastic remedy, and these powers are likely to be used only in limited circumstances where voluntary remediation, e.g. in the course of redevelopment (or otherwise) is unlikely to occur. It is therefore a legislative supplement to the planning and development control process which is likely to continue to govern the overwhelming majority of remediation of contaminated sites. (Winter 1998: 10)

Local authorities are required to prepare and implement a strategy for identifying land falling within the statutory definition of ‘contaminated’ and to require its remediation. This means inspection of sites and identification of responsibilities for remediation and monitoring – although the Environment Agency will also monitor implementation and provide advice on specific problems. The statutory definition now concentrates on the notion of ‘where significant harm is being caused or where there is a significant possibility of such harm being caused. . . [or where] pollution of controlled waters is being, or is likely to be caused’. In order to avoid blighting land, only sites that are identified as contaminated land and where the local authority is taking action will be listed on registers. In 1994 a new agency came into operation to implement ‘a new approach to vacant land’ which includes unused, underused or ineffectively used urban land, land which is contaminated, derelict, neglected, or unsightly, or land which is likely to be affected by subsidence. The agency was statutorily termed the Urban Regeneration Agency but, to underline the nature of its role, it took the non-statutory name of English Partnerships. (Its remit applies only to England: similar functions are undertaken in Scotland by Scottish Enterprise, and in Wales by the Welsh Development Agency.) These functions have now been taken over by the new Regional Development Agencies, though English Partnerships will (appropriately enough) have a partnership role with the RDAs. English Partnerships (which now has this as its statutory as well as its informal name) is continuing with a focus on national and cross-regional coordination. (Its main areas of operation are developing assets, creating partnerships, improving the environment, and finding new sources of funding in the field




of regeneration).42 In its new form, English Partnerships will continue its programme for the regeneration of the Greenwich Peninsula, the ‘national coalfields portfolio, and millennium communities Competitions. (See also the discussion in Chapter 10.)


There are numerous policies relating to land, but rarely is there anything which might be termed a ‘land policy’. Scotland presents a fascinating exception. Following a very long history of attempts to reform the Scottish feudal land system, the Scottish Parliament is embarking on ‘an integrated programme of action and legislation’ over a four- to five-year period starting in 1999. This was summarised in the very first White Paper to be published by the Scottish Executive (Land Reform: Proposals for Legislation, 1999). The Scottish system is extraordinarily complex, and only a short indication of its character can be given here.43 Essentially, feudal land ownership is a hierarchical system in which land rights derive from the highest authority, theoretically God, but in practice the Crown. The Crown is known as the Paramount Superior, and all other landowners are known as vassals of the Crown. The relationship need not be direct, however, and a vassal can convey land (to a new vassal), retaining interests which are set out in the title deed. There is no limit to the number of times this ‘feuing’ can take place. Each superior can reserve rights and impose additional ‘burdens’ (such as a restriction on building on the land or carrying on a business). Nearly all privately owned land in Scotland is held under feudal tenure, and the survival of such characteristically feudal elements as superiorities and feu duties is indicative of the extraordinarily archaic and complex nature of Scotland’s current system of land ownership. Previous reforms have attempted to simplify this system, but have not tackled the more political issue of landownership. It is claimed that Scotland has the most concentrated pattern of private landownership in the world: ‘343 landowners own over half of the entire privately owned rural land in the country’. In the

Highlands and Islands, half of all the private land (about 1.5 million hectares) is owned by fewer than a hundred landowners.44 Proposals for reform were issued by a Land Reform Policy Group appointed by the government, and a White Paper, Land Reform: Proposals for Legislation, was issued in 1999. This first instalment of reform is limited in its scope to giving ‘community bodies the right to buy rural land which is to be sold’, and to creating a right of ‘responsible access to land’. The latter is outlined in Chapter 9. Here a brief summary is given of the proposals relating to the former. The intention is to create new opportunities for ‘community ownership’. This is to be done by providing for the registration of community bodies (set up for the purpose and incorporated) that are interested in acquiring land when it comes to be sold in their area. Registered bodies will have the right to buy such land (whether privately or publicly owned). The price will be assessed by a government-appointed valuer, with disputes being settled by the Lands Tribunal for Scotland. A minimum percentage of those aged 18 or over and who live and/or work on the land in question must support the proposed purchase. To deter evasion, Scottish ministers will be able to exercise a new compulsory purchase power where this is in the public interest. The proposals have been characterised by Wightman as ‘based on a flawed, shallow and partial analysis of the problem [and revealing] a timidity and poverty of imagination when it comes to tackling landed power’ (Guardian 30 August 1999). Others might argue that it is perhaps early days to judge. Some progress has already been made (in advance of general legislation) in the Highlands and Islands, where a Community Land Unit has been established and is operating schemes of both technical and financial assistance in its region.45 FURTHER READING

Good introductions to some of the major areas covered in this chapter are Hall and Ward (1998) Sociable Cities: The Legacy of Ebenezer Howard; and Bramley et al. (1995) Planning, the Market and Private House-Building.


Land Values and Prices There has been surprisingly little study of the operation of the various experiments in capturing land values for the public benefit. A long and detailed account of the legislative history is given in Cullingworth (1980) Environmental Planning 1939– 1969, vol. 4: Land Values, Compensation and Betterment. More digestible accounts are provided by McKay and Cox (1979) The Politics of Urban Change (chapter 3) and Cox (1984) Adversary Politics and Land. The effect of planning on the land market has been the subject of a long-standing debate both in theoretical terms, as in Evans (1983) ‘The determination of the price of land’, and in the context of British planning, as in the same author’s (1988) No Room! No Room! The Costs of the British Town and Country Planning System and (1991) ‘Rabbit hutches on postage stamps’. Less tendentious are the study commissioned by DoE on The Relationship between House Prices and Land Supply (Eve and Department of Land Economy, University of Cambridge 1992); Monk et al. (1996) ‘Land-use planning, land supply and house prices’; and Bramley and Watkins (1996) Steering the Housing Market: New Building and the Changing Planning System. There is a convenient brief summary, ‘The planning system and house prices’, in Annex E of the White Paper Household Growth: Where Shall We Live? (Cm 3471, 1996). Planning Gain By contrast there have been a large number of studies of planning agreements, planning obligations, and planning gain. Selected titles (listed by date of publication) are Rowan-Robinson and Young (1989) Planning by Agreement in Scotland; Callies and Grant (1991) ‘Paying for growth and planning gain: an Anglo-American comparison’; Eve (1992) Use of Planning Agreements; Fordham (1993) ‘Planning gain in ten dimensions’; Healey et al. (1992a) ‘Rationales for planning gain’; and Bunnell (1995) ‘Planning gain in theory and practice: negotiation of agreements in Cambridgeshire’. A comprehensive study is Healey et al. (1995a) Negotiating Development: Rationales and Practice for Development Obligations and Planning Gain.

The December 1997 special issue of Urban Studies is devoted to ‘developer contributions: the bargaining process’, and includes papers on the USA, Canada, and the Netherlands. Of particular interest are Ennis ‘Infrastructure provision, the negotiating process and the planner’s role’, and Claydon and Smith ‘Negotiating planning gains through the British development control system’. DoE Circular 1/97, Planning Obligations, is, of course, of major importance. See also Cornford (1998) ‘The control of planning gain’, and Planning and Environment Law Reform Working Group (1999) ‘Planning obligations’. A succinct overview is given in Wenban-Smith and Pearce (1998) Planning Gains: Negotiating with Planning Authorities. The currently relevant Circular is 1/97 Planning Obligations. The importance of the increased cost of infrastructure in negotiations for contributions from developers was discussed in the 1972 Sheaf Report (Local Authority/Private Enterprise Partnerships Schemes). A contemporary analysis is Marvin and Guy (1997) ‘Infrastructure provision, development processes and the co-production of environmental value’. For a broader discussion, see Ward (1999) ‘Public–private partnerships’. Planning and Affordable Housing The use of planning powers to require the provision of affordable housing has attracted much debate. See, for example, Kirkwood and Edwards (1993) ‘Affordable housing policy: desirable but unlawful?’; Barlow et al. (1994a) Planning for Affordable Housing; Elson et al. (1996) Green Belts and Affordable Housing: Can We Have Both? and ‘Planning mechanisms to secure affordable housing’ in Joseph Rowntree Foundation (1994) Inquiry into Planning for Housing; and Gallent (2000) ‘Planning and affordable housing: from old values to New Labour’. The DETR has produced Guidance for Local Authorities on Housing Strategies (available direct from DETR). The Shelter report by Holmans et al. (1998) How Many Homes Will We Need (1998) is an assessment of the need for affordable housing in England. (The production of affordable houses greatly falls short of the need).




On the strange ‘exceptions policy’ (the exceptional release of land for local needs housing), see Annex A to PPG 3 and Circular 6/98 Planning and Affordable Housing; Bishop and Hooper (1991) Planning for Social Housing (which contains a good bibliography of publications up to this date); Williams et al. (1991) Evaluating the Low Cost Rural Housing Initiative; Elson et al. (1996) Green Belts and Affordable Housing: Can We Have Both?; and Gallent and Bell (2000) ‘Planning exceptions in rural England: past, present and future’. More generally on housing need issues, see HC Environment Committee (1996) Housing Need. A comprehensive analysis of English housing conditions is given in Green et al. (1996) Housing in England 1994/95.

by Jenks et al. (1996) The Compact City: A Sustainable Urban Form?. On brownfield sites, Llewelyn-Davies (1996) The Re-use of Brownfield Land for Housing deals with the difficulty of the remaining brownfield sites and the need for substantial government subsidies. The difficulties are illustrated in a short report by the Civic Trust, Brownfield Housing 12 Years On (1999). See also Breheny and Hall (1996) The People: Where Will They Go? and Alker et al. (2000) ‘The definition of brownfield’. Bibby and Shepherd (1999), in ‘Refocusing national brownfield housing targets’, discuss some important neglected issues relating to brownfield housing targets. Household Projections

Land Availability and Urban Capacity Studies Central government policy in relation to land availability studies was set out in the 1988 and 1992 versions of PPG 3, Housing (with an annex on the organisation and methodology). The equivalent for Wales was TAN 1, Joint Housing Land Availability Studies. There was an extensive literature on the subject, for example Bramley (1989) Land Supply, Planning, and Private Housebuilding; Jackson et al. (1994) The Supply of Land for Housing: Changing Local Authority Mechanisms; Bramley et al. (1995) Planning, the Market and Private House-Building; and Bramley and Watkins (1996) Steering the Housing Market: New Building and the Changing Planning System. High-quality housing capacity studies are few in number but this will no doubt change as they become the successor to the land availability studies. In the meantime the sole title is UK Round Table on Sustainable Development (1997) Housing and Urban Capacity, which contains a review of studies (it is available from DETR). See also Llewelyn-Davies (1994) Providing More Homes in Urban Areas and LlewelynDavies Planning (1997) Sustainable Residential Quality: New Approaches to Urban Living. Lord Rogers’ Task Force report (1999) Toward an Urban Renaissance makes an unconvincing assessment of the potentialities of brownfield sites. A useful collection of essays is edited

The latest (1996-based) projections are published in DETR (1999) Projections of Households in England to 2021. The most accessible discussions of household projections are given in the Conservative government’s White Paper Household Growth: Where Shall We Live? (Cm 3471, 1996) and in Breheny and Hall (1996) The People: Where Will They Go? More technical is Bramley et al. (1997) The Economic Determinants of Household Formation: A Literature Review. See also Allinson (1999) ‘The 4.4 million households: do we really need them anyway?’. For rural areas, see Rural Development Commission (1998) Household Growth in Rural Areas: The Household Projections and Policy Implications. New Settlements An account of the long-standing British campaign for new settlements is discussed by Ward (1992) The Garden City: Past, Present and Future; and by Hardy (1991a) From Garden Cities to New Towns and (1991b) From New Towns to Green Politics (which is a twovolume history of the TCPA). A volume in the official history Environmental Planning 1939–1969 by Cullingworth (1979) provides a detailed deadpan record of government policy over this thirty-year period. Breheny et al. (1993) Alternative Development Patterns: New Settlements provide a more up-to-date picture. Invaluable as a succinct historical account, as


well as an overview and analysis of the current policy issues, is Hall and Ward (1998) Sociable Cities: The Legacy of Ebenezer Howard. Green Belts Two major publications on green belts are Elson (1986) Green Belts: Conflict Mediation in the Urban Fringe, and the report of a study for DoE by Elson et al. (1993) The Effectiveness of Green Belts. Broader in scope is the classic study by Peter Hall et al. (1973) The Containment of Urban England. On green belts in Scotland, see Regional Studies Association (1990) Beyond Green Belts and Pacione (1991) ‘Development pressure and the production of the built environment in the urban fringe’. On Welsh policy in relation to green belts, see Planning Guidance (Wales): Planning Policy First Revision (1999) and Tewdwr-Jones (1997) ‘Green belts or green wedges for Wales? A flexible approach to planning in the urban periphery’. A short critical appraisal of green belt policy is Cherry (1992) ‘Green belt and the emergent city’. Town Centres And Shopping Obviously, PPG 6 is crucial on the subject of out-oftown and edge-of-town shopping centres in England, even though it is somewhat opaque in parts. The equivalent Planning Policy Statement for Northern Ireland is PPS 5 Retailing and Town Centres (1996); for Scotland it is NPPG 8 Town Centres and Retailing (1998). Good reviews of the issues involved arising with out-of-town shopping centres include BDP Planning and Oxford Institute of Retail Management (1994) The Effects of Major Out-of-Town Retail Developments and CB Hillier Parker and Saxell Bird Axon (1998) The Impact of Large Foodstores on Market Towns and District Centres. See also Sparks (1998) Town Centre Uses in Scotland; URBED (1994) Vital and Viable Town Centres: Meeting the Challenge; HC Environment Committee (1997) Shopping Centres; Ravenscroft (2000) ‘The vitality and viability of town centres’; and National Retail Planning Forum (1999) A Bibliography of Retail Planning. An analysis of the changing economics of superstore

development is given by Wrigley (1998) ‘Understanding store development programmes in post-propertycrisis UK food retailing’. For a discussion of retail parks, see Guy (1998) ‘High Street retailing in offcentre retail parks’, and ‘Alternative-use valuation, open A1 planning consent, and the development of retail parks’. More generally, see Guy (1994) The Retail Development Process. Vacant, Derelict, and Contaminated Land The research on vacant land includes Cameron et al. (1988) Vacant Urban Land: A Literature Review and Whitbread et al. (1991) Tackling Vacant Land: An Evaluation of Policy Instruments. The latter provides a review of previous research. For a broader overview of urban land policies, see Chubb (1988) Urban Land Markets in the United Kingdom. Derelict land is dealt with in a number of government reports including The Strategic Approach to Derelict Land Reclamation (1992); Assessment of the Effectiveness of Derelict Land in Reclaiming Land for Development (1994); Derelict Land Survey 1993 (1995); and Derelict Land Prevention and the Planning System (1995). Policy on contaminated land is succinctly set out in PPG 23 Planning and Pollution Control. A commentary on this is given by Graham (1996) ‘Contaminated land investigations: how will they work under PPG 23?’. An exhaustive legal guide is Tromans and TurrallClarke (1994 with 1996 supplement) Contaminated Land. In September 1999 DETR issued Draft Circular on Contaminated Land. The final version of this is to be published in early 2000. On redundant military land, see Bateman and Riley (1987) The Geography of Defence; National Audit Office (1992) Ministry of Defence: Management and Control of Army Training Land; Farrington (1995) ‘Military land in Britain after the Cold War’; Fuller Peiser and Reading University (1999) Development of the Redundant Defence Estate; and Fyson (1999b) ‘Iron out defence land policy to get the full benefits’.




Scottish Land Reform The main book used in the text is Callander (1998) How Scotland is Owned. He also wrote A Pattern of Landownership in Scotland (1987). Another author in this field is Wightman (1996) Who Owns Scotland and (1999) Scotland: Land and Power. See also Ogilvie (1997) Birthright in Land, and McCrone (1997) Land, Democracy and Culture in Scotland.



1 The principle had been first established in an Act of 1662 which authorised the levying of a capital sum or an annual rent in respect of the ‘melioration’ of properties following street widenings in London. There were similar provisions in Acts providing for the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire. The principle was revived and extended in the Planning Acts of 1909 and 1932. These allowed a local authority to claim first 50 per cent and then (in the later Act) 75 per cent of the amount by which any property increased in value as the result of the operation of a planning scheme. In fact, these provisions were largely ineffective since it proved extremely difficult to determine with any certainty which properties had increased in value as a result of a scheme or, where there was a reasonable degree of certainty, how much of the increase in value was directly attributable to the scheme and how much to other factors. The Uthwatt Committee noted that there were only three cases in which betterment had actually been paid under the planning acts. 2 Planning Policy and Social Housing (RTPI 1992: 5). Grant (1999b) discusses this policy explicitly as a form of betterment recoupment. He adds that ‘the tenuous link drawn in the circular between private and affordable housing is demonstrated by the government’s willingness for the obligation to be commuted to a financial contribution by the developer towards the provision of affordable housing elsewhere in the local authority’s area’. 3 See Chartered Institute of Housing et al. (1999);






National Housing Federation (1999); and Whitehead et al. (1999). Fundamental Review of the Laws and Procedures Relating to Compulsory Purchase and Compensation: Interim Report (London: DETR, January 1999); see also the reports of the Symposium on Compulsory Purchase: An Appropriate Power for the 21st Century, available at . There is a more detailed account in the previous edition of this book. The claimed benefits of living in ‘compact cities’ vary greatly. Arguments in favour include Jacobs (1961); Elkin (1991), Sherlock (1991) ECOTEC (1993); and various official publications on sustainable development. Arguments suggesting that the benefits are illusory, infeasible, or overstated include Breheny (1997); P. Hall (1999c); and K. Williams (1999). See the Government Response to the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee: Housing (Cm 4080, 1998: para. 145). A review by Llewelyn-Davies revealed that few local authorities had undertaken such studies. Where they had been carried out, they seriously underestimated the amount of land available for housing. They recommended that studies should (1) be based on original site work, (2) include a significant physical design element, and (3) not be constrained by existing policies and standards. None of the studies reviewed met these criteria (UK Round Table on Sustainable Development 1997). Evidence to the HC Select Committee on Housing PPG 3, HC 490-I. See also the Friends of the Earth report by Rudlin (1998). There will no doubt be lengthy arguments about the figures. Following the publications of the Urban Task Force report, a Statistical Service Information Bulletin (no. 500) was released giving provisional results from the National Land Use Database (web site>). (The National Land Use Database is a partnership between DETR, English Partnerships, the Improvement and Development Agency, and the








Ordnance Survey.) This showed that in 1998 ‘there were some 33,000 hectares of previously vacant and derelict land in England, of which just over 12,000 hectares either had planning permission for housing or were judged suitable for housing. At current densities, this land could accommodate over 325,000 new dwellings. An estimated additional 385,000 dwellings could be provided through the reuse of vacant commercial buildings, land currently in use but allocated in plans for redevelopment or with planning permission for housing, and other sites expected to become available for redevelopment.’ Whatever assumptions are made about density these figures are far short of the up to four million dwellings required. Fyson (1999b: 15) comments that ‘the crucial fallacy exposed by this report is the supposed connection between urban revival and the concentration of most new housing in existing urban areas’. See, for instance, Jenkins et al. (1996); Breheny (1997); and P. Hall (1999c) Sustainable Cities and Town Cramming. Hedges and Clemens (1994): tables 6.17 and 7.17 and commentary pp. 132 and 158). Breheny (1997) discusses these and other relevant issues. See also Todorovic and Wellington (2000). There is also the issue of empty properties owned by government departments: see DETR (1999) Revised Guidance on Securing the Better Use of Empty Homes. From April 2000, council tax will be payable at the rate of 50 per cent on dwellings that have been vacant for a year or more. See DETR (1997) Evaluation of Flats over Shops, London Planning Advisory Committee (1998b), and Urban Task Force (1999a: 253–4). See, for example, CPRE (1994c); Bramley and Watkins (1995); Bramley (1996b); and Green Balance (1999). DETR (1999) Planning Policy Guidance Note 11: Regional Planning Public Consultation Draft, para. 5.4. See also HC Select Committee on the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs, 10th Report (session 1997/98) Housing, vol. 1, para. 2.11, and The Government’s Response (Cm



19 20 21 22


24 25

26 27

4080), paras 127–36. Stephen Crow, in his evidence to the HC Environment Subcommittee, argued that both the expressions ‘predict and provide and ‘plan, monitor and manage were ‘slogans which can mean all things to all men’. HC Select Committee, op. cit. para. 210. For the CPRE view on this, see Wenban-Smith (1999) and Sprawl Patrol campaign and briefing sheet Plan, Monitor and Manage (details at ). The Select Committee’s report Housing PPG 3 (1999) criticised the draft PPG for its lack of clear and specific guidance; op. cit. para. 14. SERPLAN A Sustainable Development Strategy for the South East (SERP 500, 1998). Accompanying documents are listed in appendix 2 of RPG for the South East, Public Examination: Report of the Panel. RPG for the South East, Public Examination: Report of the Panel, paras 4.54 and 4.63. See also Whitehead et al. (1999). (This study includes the Eastern region.) RPG for the South East, op. cit., para. 4.67. Evidence of Professor Tony Crook and Dr Christine Whitehead to the Select Committee, op. cit., p. 74. It is curious and unfortunate that ‘there is no mechanism in England whereby the desirability of inter-regional migration can be debated, (Breheny and Hall 1996). See the discussion and references on RDAs in Chapter 3. The major factor, of course, is the changing pattern of employment. Though there has been a general loss of manufacturing jobs, the loss has been most dramatic in the conurbations. These losses have not been offset by a corresponding growth in alternative employment in the affected areas. The expansion in service jobs has been located almost entirely mainly in towns and rural areas where there are attractive and cheap sites. See Turok and Edge (1999), Turok and Webster (1998), and Rowthorn (1999). See Breheny (1997): 213) and Breheny and Hall (1996). ‘The capacity of urban areas to absorb new






30 31



housing depends not only on the stock of brownfield land that is currently available, but also on the flow of previously developed sites that will become available over the period to which the target relates’ (Bibby and Shepherd 1999). Breheny et al. (1993). Much of this is of a technical nature, comparing the costs and benefits of different forms of development. This is a difficult and complex matter, since so much depends on site-specific issues. The authors neatly point up the difficulties by stressing that their analysis is ‘intended to focus discussion rather than present a definitive assessment’. But central government is urged to come off the fence, and to give a clear statement on the management of urban growth. It is unequivocally stated that ‘unless much tougher containment policies are introduced – at the very time when concerns are being expressed over urban intensification – it is inevitable that significant greenfield/village development will take place in the UK’. It did, however, carefully avoid making the mass of assumptions which flawed an earlier study by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (Stone 1973; see also Cullingworth (1979: 473). See also Hall and Ward (1998); particularly chapter 9 on ‘sustainable social cities of tomorrow. But see the study commissioned by the Sports Council for Wales (Elson 1991). Tewdwr-Jones (1997) suggests that the alternative policy of green wedges in areas of possible development pressures could provide a flexible way of meeting both current recreation needs and future development needs. There have been two inquiries by the HC Environment Committee (1994): Shopping Centres and Their Future (and the Government Response 1995) and Shopping Centres (1997). The Government Response to this was published later in the same year. CB Hillier Parker and Saxell Bird Avon (1998: para. 10.12). See also the series of reports on the employment impact of out-of-town superstores published by the National Retail Planning Forum.

34 The figures are from the Government Statistical Service Information Bulletin 500 (20 May 1999), and details of the NLUD findings are available at . 35 For Scotland, see Scottish Vacant and Derelict Land Survey 1998 (Edinburgh, TSO: 1999). 36 Policies can be founded on myths as well as on adequate understanding of problems. So it was with the land registers established by the 1980 Local Government, Planning and Land Act. The myth was that one of the major causes of urban dereliction was the hoarding of land by public authorities. By requiring local authorities and other public bodies to ‘register’ their land, it was expected that it would find its way into the development process. In fact, with the reality being much more complicated than the perception, the registers were of little effect. (See the evaluation undertaken for the DoE by Whitbread et al. (1991).) 37 This section draws on the DETR study Development of the Redundant Defence Estate (Fuller Peiser and University of Reading 1999), which notes that the Ministry of Defence is the second largest estate in single ownership in the UK, with about 226,000 hectares of land. (Only the Forestry Commission has more land.) 38 This and the following quotations are from the HC Environment Committee report Contaminated Land (1990). 39 The crux of the problem lay in the concept of ‘contamination’. Instead of referring to land that is contaminated, the Act relates to ‘land which is being or has been put to any use which may cause that land to become contaminated with noxious substances’. This very inclusive definition was made particularly onerous in the initial draft regulations because of the very large number of contaminative uses which were specified. There was strong criticism that the registers would create widespread blight and, in an attempt to pacify objectors, the number of specified uses was greatly reduced. 40 Another objection to the initial regulations was that they prohibited the deregistration of sites.


This was defended on two grounds. One is that factual information on the site’s history (which cannot by definition change) will be necessary when any future change of use is proposed. The other is that contamination from the site may have migrated to adjacent sites; owners, regulatory authorities, and developers are expected to use registers to identify such sources of contamination. 41 See also the DETR web pages on contaminated land at , which provide a summary of the current regime. 42 The Commission for the New Towns has also combined with English Partnerships.

43 This account leans heavily on Callander (1998), from which extensive quotations are taken. 44 A. Wightman, ‘A land (un)divided: land reform proposals for Scotland fall far short of what is needed for the redistribution of power’, (Guardian 30 August 1999). See also Wightman (1996, 1999). 45 Highlands and Islands Enterprise Community Land Unit Action Framework 1998–2001. In its first year the Unit’s achievements included financial assistance to Abriachan Forest Trust towards the purchase of 50 hectares of woodland on the side of Loch Ness, and assistance to some twenty smaller community land initiatives.


7 P L A N N I N G , T H E E N V I R O N M E N T, A N D S U S TA I N A B L E D E V E L O P M E N T

In the last few decades, much has been achieved in reversing the environmental damage of previous centuries. Few people, for example, would have foreseen, even fifty years ago, that a river like the Don, despoiled by the filth of two centuries of industrial intensification and decline, would flow clean enough to support thriving fish populations by the dawn of the new Millennium. Few probably even spared a thought for whether such a turn-around in environmental fortunes might be desirable, let alone achievable. (Sir John Harman, Chairman of the Environment Agency for England and Wales in the Foreword of Creating an Environmental Vision Consultation Draft, 2000)


In one sense, all town and country planning is concerned with the environment; but the reverse is not true, and it is difficult to decide where to draw the boundaries. The difficulty is increased by the rate of organisational change over recent years including the shifting of responsibilities from local government to ad hoc bodies, and by the flood of new legislation, prompted in part by the EU. Further complications arise because of the increased concern for the environment and the rise of sustainable development as a political slogan and goal. The implications for ‘town and country planning’ are still working themselves out, and not always easily, as some of the implications touch at the heart of the planning system. Thus, it has been a long-standing feature of planning control that permission is given unless there are good reasons for refusal. It is for the local planning authority to demonstrate (to the Secretary of State if necessary) that an application should be refused. With ‘environmental’ procedures, however, the onus shifts somewhat: the developer’s

proposals have to be demonstrably acceptable, and permission can be refused if they are not. Though official pronouncements and advice are coy in acknowledging this, it is clear that environmental factors can be decisive in a planning decision and that applicants may even be required to discuss the merits of alternative sites. In the words of PPG 23, environmental statements, which must accompany particular applications ‘may – and as a matter of practice should – include an outline discussion of the main alternatives studied by the developer and an indication of the reasons for choosing the development proposed, taking account of environmental effects’ (PPG 23: para. 3.16). Local authorities have specific powers in relation to some environmental issues such as certain aspects of pollution, waste, and noise, but they are not environmental planning authorities. Other, specific ‘pollution control regimes’ exist for this purpose, but there is no clear dividing line. A related issue here is that of sustainability – a concept around which much environmental policy revolves.


BOX 7.1


The dividing line between planning and pollution controls is not always clear cut. Both seek to protect the environment. Matters which will be relevant to a pollution control authorisation or licence may also be material considerations to be taken into account in a planning decision. The weight to be attached to such matters will depend on the scope of the pollution control system in each particular case. . . . In deciding whether to grant planning permission, planning authorities must be satisfied that

planning permission can be granted on land-use grounds, and that concerns about potential releases can be left for the pollution control authority to take into account in considering the application for the authorisation or licence. Alternatively, they may conclude that the wider impact of potential releases on the development and use of land is unacceptable in all the circumstances on planning grounds, despite the grant, or potential grant, of a pollution control authorisation or licence.

Source: PG 23, Planning and Pollution Control (paras 1.34–36)

BOX 7.2


Sustainable development: development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts: • the concept of ‘needs’, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given; • the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organisation on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs. (World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future (Brundtland Report) 1987) To promote development that enhances the natural and built environment in ways that are compatible with • the requirement to conserve the stock of natural assets, wherever possible offsetting any avoidable reduction by a compensating increase so that the total is left undiminished;

• the need to avoid damaging the regenerative capacity of the world’s ecosystems; • the need to achieve greater social equality; • the avoidance of the imposition of added costs or risks on future generations. (Blowers 1993) Sustainability means making sure that substitute resources are made available as non-renewable resources become physically scarce, and it means ensuring that the environmental impacts of using those resources are kept within the Earth’s carrying capacity to assimilate those impacts. (Pearce 1993) Sustainable development is not simply about creating wealth and protecting the environment. It is also about caring for people and their quality of life. It is about ensuring that the quality of life of future generations will be as good as, or better than, it is for us. (Environment Agency, Creating an Environmental Vision, 2000)




Words cast a spell which can, at one and the same time, command respect and create great confusion. No word illustrates this better than the ubiquitous ‘sustainability’. There is a view that the word has been so badly abused and misused that it has lost any useful meaning; it now serves to obscure rather than reveal the real issues. General public awareness and understanding of the concept remains low.1 That there is a broad political consensus on the importance of the general idea of sustainability is surely an indicator of how widely it can be interpreted. Thus sustainability and sustainable development are not capable of precise scientific definition.2 They are instead social and political constructs used as a call to action but with little in the way of practical guidance (O’Riordan 1985; Baker et al. 1997).3 Indeed, the ambiguity inherent in the terms can be seen as a positive as it presents an opportunity for local political debate on sustainability issues among competing positions. Debate around the sustainability concept ensures that some of the key conflicts and contradictions in public policy (and planning practice) are at least exposed and perhaps addressed (Myerson and Rydin 1996). But acceptance of the political, vague, and uncertain meaning of the sustainability concept is not an excuse for inaction (any more so than the contested nature of the term ‘democracy’ is an excuse not to improve our democratic processes). Many academics, environmental groups, and government officials are devoting earnest effort to establishing what sustainability means – or what it should mean – for public policy. There are, without question, important implications for town and country planning arising from the fundamental principles of sustainability – but the nature of these principles can be confusing because of the great variety of definitions. One famous poetic rendering is by Chief Seattle: ‘We do not inherit the world from our ancestors: we borrow it from our children.’ This encapsulates the essential idea which is more prosaically expressed in the well-known formulation of the 1987 Brundtland Report: ‘Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future

generations to meet their own needs’ (World Commission on Environment and Development 1987). Shiva (1992: 192) has pointed to two very different uses of the concept. One (‘the real meaning’) relates to the primacy of nature: ‘sustaining nature implies the integrity of nature’s processes, cycles and rhythms’. This is to be contrasted with ‘market sustainability’, which is concerned with conserving resources for development purposes, and, if they become depleted, finding substitutes. On this latter approach, sustainability is convertible into substitutability and hence a cash nexus. The distinction is given eloquent expression in the words of a Native American elder who, in epitomising the non-convertibility of money into life, said: ‘Only when you have felled the last tree, caught the last fish, and polluted the last river, will you realize that you can’t eat money’ (Shiva 1992: 193).4 This distinction between fundamental (or strong) definitions of sustainability and superficial (or weak) definitions has been made in numerous ways.5 Owens (1994a) explains that the strong definition places fixed and inviolable constraints on economic activity, whereas the weak definition simply gives environmental capacities greater weight in the decision process. Broadly speaking, the first formulation challenges whether it is right to continue to meet various demands and needs if this cannot be accomplished without reducing current levels and quality of environmental stock. Thus demand management of resource use should be the central policy response. Needless to say, it is generally the weaker formulations that actually dominate. The policy response at this level has been described as ecological or environmental modernisation (Jacobs 1999). Here there is an emphasis on meeting sustainability through securing greater eco-efficiency by reducing waste, conserving energy, and reducing pollution, while, to put it crudely, the economy continues to function as before. The objective is to influence market forces rather than regulate or replace them – for example, with devices such as environmental designations or financial mechanisms, though the limitations in providing adequate rewards to the market are well understood (Milton 1991). A key role of planning here is in finding appropriate locations to


meet resources demands where environmental costs are lower or where the trade-off of environmental loss against economic gains is more acceptable.6 Cowell and Owens (1998) have shown how the planning system mediates the questions of demand management and spatial location in a case study of aggregates planning – though the general argument can be applied more widely. Those who advocate that sustainability is familiar in the history of planning (Hall et al. 1993) are in effect presenting the weak interpretation – the planning system’s traditional role has been to deal with the locational issues so as to reduce environmental damage and achieve some sort of balance between new urban development and environmental protection. But strong (or even moderate) interpretations of sustainability raise questions about the capability of the planning system to deal with the structural questions of the relationship between social justice (the distribution of costs and benefits), economic demands, and environmental capacities. This is not to say that the spatial or territorial questions are unimportant – they are – but that additional dimensions should also be considered, not least in demand management. Recent changes to the planning system such as in relation to meeting housing land requirements (discussed in Chapter 6) hint at changes in this direction. They also reflect growing consensus about the fundamental and very challenging principles which should govern public policy for sustainability. In this respect it should be noted that the UK approach has traditionally differed from that in other European countries, particularly Germany. An important difference in principle (differences in practice may be less marked) is that of ‘anticipation’ as distinct from reaction. Whereas the UK has taken the view that environmental problems should be defined in terms of their measurable impacts, other countries have gone beyond this, and anticipated problems before the degree of environmental damage can be ascertained – this is related to the precautionary principle. In Germany the concept of vorsorgeprinzip is applied, meaning broadly the principle of ‘prevention’ or ‘anticipation’ (but this fails to capture its full meaning). The German word connotes a ‘notion of good

husbandry which represents what one might also call best practice’. Möltke (1988) comments that ‘Vorsorgeprinzip is more than just prevention as an efficient means to an end but rather prevention as an end of itself.’ The aim is, therefore, to establish pollution control policy, not merely as a means of reducing economic or social cost but also as a means of preserving wider ecosystems. Typically, the European approach involves the avoidance of ‘excessive cost’. This, of course, is no easier to define than concepts such as ‘reasonable cost’, but it is clearly intended to be more demanding. Shed of its more philosophical overtones, the issue is fundamentally ‘whether to protect environmental systems before science can determine whether damage will result, or whether to apply controls only with respect to a known likelihood of environmental disturbance’ (O’Riordan and Weale 1989: 290). The principles for sustainability for territorial development and land use planning have been explained in many different ways but are summarised in the EU Sustainable Cities Report (1996), Blowers (1993), Selman (1992) and others. They are: • to develop within environmental capacities and apply the precautionary principle where these are uncertain; • to protect and enhance the stock of natural capital, ensuring that it is passed on in good condition to future generations (intergenerational equity and futurity); • to ensure that most human benefit is obtained from economic activity; and that there is a fair distribution of the benefit from the use of resources (intragenerational equity); • not to export the costs of economic growth and environmental quality to other places (however distant) and promote local self-sufficiency; • to close resource loops through reuse and recycling and the active management of resource flows; • to ensure that the costs of environmental damage are borne by those who cause them (the polluter pays principle); and • to ensure active involvement of local communities in decisions that affect them. The shortlist has been developed into a more comprehensive framework of sustainability principles as




shown in Table 7.1. This conceptualisation of sustainability was developed specifically for territorial development with the aim of assisting in transposing the very general notions of sustainability into planning and development practice and also for appraising existing planning policies and actions (Brown et al. forthcoming). The conclusions from the research indicate how sustainability has been ‘operationalised’ or put into practice by identifying which sustainability principles are actually used in plan- and decisionmaking and how. Assessments of the take-up of sustainability principles into aspects of town and country planning are now coming forward.7 In sum, there has been only partial and fragmented conversion of the principles into planning policies and actions. Policies tend to follow well-worn formulae or ‘checklists’ and are seldom ambitious in addressing the strong definition of sustainability through, for example, demand management. Even where there is a positive attitude to the notion of sustainable development, the planning response is understood in relatively narrow terms – predominantly the organisation of land uses and transport links – and because of institutional fragmentation rarely addresses the wider impacts in fields such as energy, waste air, noise, and water, or even quality of life. Policy compartmentalisation and departmentalism are strong barriers to effective integrative approaches to sustainable development. The positive results derive largely from linkages between the planning process and Local Agenda 21 and the application of environmental appraisal (discussed on p. 221). Owens (1994a) suggested there was lots of ‘sustainability rhetoric’ but in practice it was business as usual. By 1998 Counsell reported that translation of sustainability principles into operational policies in structure plans was still ‘proving difficult’, though there is great variation in performance – perhaps as much related to local short-term self-interest as to concerns about long-term intergenerational equity. In the meantime, the stock of advice to planning authorities about how to incorporate sustainability into plans and decisions has increased sharply.8 But aspirations still outstrip achievements. Even the most

ambitious experimental projects such as the government’s ‘Millennium Villages’ have ‘not yet delivered the order of magnitude of improvement needed to demonstrate true sustainability’ (Llewelyn-Davies 2000: 3). The explanation is of course complex and the references noted here point to many factors, but planners will often cite the contradictory and unhelpful nature of national policy and actions (especially outside the planning system) and the limited scope of planning. Recent changes in PPG 3, Housing (2000), suggest that significant efforts are being made to provide a stronger framework, but considerable ambiguity remains at the national level.


The UK has made a very positive response to the commitments of Agenda 21. The 1992 Rio Earth Summit gave a major impetus to the elaboration of ‘sustainable’ policies. Agreement was given to Agenda 21: a comprehensive world-wide programme for sustainable development in the twenty-first century. In formulating this programme, major emphasis was placed on a very wide degree of participation. In the UK this is organised at central and local government levels. Two years after the Rio Summit the government published This Common Inheritance: Britain’s Environmental Strategy, which was followed by annual monitoring reports. In 1994 this was effectively replaced by Sustainable Development: The UK Strategy. The 1997 Labour administration undertook to revise the strategy and published numerous consultation documents during 1998. The revised strategy, A Better Quality of Life, was published in May 1999. Scotland published its own sustainable strategy consultation document, Down to Earth, in the same year. The 1999 Strategy promotes four main objectives: social progress (the main addition from the previous strategy), protection of the environment, prudent use of natural resources, and maintenance of high levels of economic growth (see Box 7.3). The strategy identifies 147 sustainable development indicators, including fourteen headline indicators, and makes a fairly frank

PLANNING, THE ENVIRONMENT, AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT Table 7.1 Sustainability Principles for Territorial Development Principles


Overarching Futurity and intergenerational equity

Intersocietal equity

Local and regional self-sufficiency

Risk prevention and reduction

Precautionary principle (no irreversible decisions) Include cumulative and long-term impacts in decision-making Commitment to equity at local, national, and international levels Ensure commitment to equity so environmental impacts and the costs of protecting the environment do not unfairly burden any one geographic or socio-economic sector Reduce externality effects so that environmental impacts and costs do not unfairly burden any one geographic group or socio-economic sector Use close in preference to distant resources Natural disasters Human-made disasters

Environmental Maintain the capacity of natural systems

Minimise resource consumption

Environmental quality

Absolute protection of critical natural capital Defence of improvement of soil quality and stability Defence and improvement of key habitats and biodiversity Respect absorption and assimilation capacities of natural systems Efficient use of renewable resources Minimum depletion of renewable resources Minimum depletion of non-renewable resources Energy efficiency Minimise waste, recycling and reuse Reduce pollution emissions; protect air and water quality and minimise noise Protect and enhance environmental amenity and aesthetics Protect natural and cultural heritage

Economic and societal Protect and develop the economic system Develop the human social system (education, democracy, human rights) Develop the capacity of the political system

Source: Adapted from Brown et al. (forthcoming)

Encourage and develop connections between environmental quality and economic vitality Satisfy and protect basic needs (shelter, food, clean water, etc.) Provide entrepreneurial and employment opportunities Protect basic human rights Ensure health and safety Improve local living conditions Satisfy the economic and living standards to which people aspire Ensure transparent decision-making processes Develop open, inclusive and participatory governance Apply subsidiarity and ensure that competences are exercised at the most appropriate level



TOWN AND COUNTRY PLANNING IN THE UK Table 7.2 Main Events in the Growth of the Sustainable Development Agenda Year

Major events in environmental planning


UN Conference on the Human Environment, Stockholm


First EC Action Programme on the Environment


First EC Directive on Environmental Assessment


World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED): Brundtland Report – Our Common Future


This Common Inheritance: Britain’s Environmental Strategy


UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED or the Earth Summit), Rio and creation of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) Agenda 21: a comprehensive world-wide programme for sustainable development in the 21st century Climate Change Convention: international agreement to establish a framework for reducing risks of global warming by limiting ‘greenhouse gases’ Biodiversity Convention: international agreement to protect diversity of species and habitats Statement of Forest Principles for management, conservation, and sustainable development of the world’s forests


Sustainable Development: The UK Strategy


UN Habitat II Conference, Istanbul EU Expert Group on the Urban Environment Report on European Sustainable Cities The Aalborg Charter on Local Agenda 21 and the setting up of the European Sustainable Cities and Towns Campaign


Earth Summit +5: five-year review and adoption of Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21 by UN General Assembly EU Amsterdam Treaty incorporates sustainable development as a fundamental objective of the EU


Consultation on draft revised UK Strategy on Sustainable Development Opportunities for Change and supplementary strategies on business, tourism, biodiversity, forests, construction, and sustainability indicators EU Communication Sustainable Urban Development: A Framework for Action


A Better Quality of Life: A Strategy for Sustainable Development for the United Kingdom published (and additional special papers) Down to Earth: A Scottish Perspective on Sustainable Development published


EU Global Assessment of the Fifth Action Programme on the Environment


EU Sixth Framework Programme on the Environment OECD Analytical Paper on Sustainable Development


UN Habitat III Conference



What is sustainable development? At its heart is the simple idea of ensuring a better quality of life for everyone, now and for generations to come. Social progress which recognises the needs of everyone. Everyone should share in the benefits of increased prosperity and a clean and safe environment. We have to improve access to services, tackle social exclusion, and reduce the harm to health caused by poverty, poor housing, unemployment and pollution. Our needs must not be met by treating others, including future generations and people elsewhere in the world, unfairly. Effective protection of the environment. We must act to limit global environmental threats, such as climate change; to protect human health and safety from hazards such as poor air quality and toxic chemicals; and to protect things which people need or value, such as wildlife, landscapes and historic buildings.

assessment of the baseline position and trends for each.9 These are summarised in Table 7.3. The range of indicators, including, for example, levels of crime, gives a clear indication of the very broad definition that the government has given to sustainable development.10 The strategy has found favour with many interests, not least because all areas of public policy are given some prominence in the objectives of sustainable development. There is a strong theoretical argument for a holistic perspective that recognises the part that must be played by all sectors of government in achieving social, economic, and environmental sustainability objectives. But clarity of purpose is sorely compromised, especially in comparison with approaches elsewhere, and there is little doubt that the economic imperative still holds sway. The strategy is in the ecological modernisation approach with a concentration

Prudent use of natural resources. This does not mean denying ourselves the use of non-renewable resources like oil and gas, but we do need to make sure that we use them efficiently and that alternatives are developed to replace them in due course. Renewable resources, such as water, should be used in ways that do not endanger the resource or cause serious damage or pollution. Maintenance of high and stable levels of economic growth and employment, so that everyone can share in high living standards and greater job opportunities. The UK is a trading nation in a rapidly changing world. For our country to prosper, our businesses must produce the high quality goods and services that consumers throughout the world want, at prices they are prepared to pay. To achieve that, we need a workforce that is equipped with the education and skills for the 21st century. And we need businesses ready to invest, and an infrastructure to support them.

on increasing economic growth but to be achieved while reducing pollution and the use of natural resources. Thus some indicators for UK sustainability have more than a passing resemblance to the OECD’s indicators for economic competitiveness. Levett (2000) describes the list of indicators as ‘a towering achievement’, especially in their breadth, but notes that many are concerned with inputs as proxies for ends or measuring actual progress towards greater sustainability – as for example in measuring the existence of Agenda 21 strategies rather than their impacts. Such criticisms of indicators are well known. Selection is intensely political because the indicators are in effect the definition of sustainability, and they may reveal great shortcomings – as illustrated in Box 7.3. Above all, as the strategy itself accepts, increasing eco-efficiency will not be able to keep pace with ‘business-as-usual economic growth’. As Levett


Baseline assessment

Total investment has declined from 20% of GDP in 1970 to 17% of GDP in 1998 – and business has invested consistently less per head than in other G7 countries. In May/July 1999 the employment rate was 74% of those of working age, about the same as 1970, though it has increased for women and decreased for men.

H2 Total and social investment as a percentage of GDP

H3 Proportion of people of working age who are in work

Little change over the past ten years with 19% of children in low-income households; 17% of working-age people with no qualifications; 13% people in workless households, and about 60% of single elderly households in fuel poverty.

The proportion of 19-year-olds with NVQ level 2 (or 5 GCSEs grade C or above) was 45% in 1984 and 74% in 1999. Life expectancy has increased (74 years for men and 79 years for women in 1995), but more years are spent in poor health. Improvement from 8.8% unfit homes in 1986 to 7.2% in 1996 (1.5m homes). Recorded crime of all types has increased substantially since 1970. Burglary and theft from cars has decreased since 1993 but violent crime continues to rise.

H4 Success in tackling poverty and social exclusion (children in low-income households, adults without qualifications and in workless households, elderly in fuel poverty)

H5 Qualifications at age 19

H6 Expected years of healthy life

H7 Homes judged unfit to live in

H8 Level of crime

Social progress which recognises the needs of everyone

Between 1970 and 1998 the output of the economy has grown 86% in real terms.

H1 Total output of the economy (GDP and GDP per head)

Maintaining high and stable levels of economic growth and employment

Headline indicator

Table 7.3 The UK’s Strategic Objectives and Headline Indicators for Sustainable Development

positive and negative

no change

no change



no change



Overall performance 1990–98

Nearly 95% of the river network is of good or fair quality. River lengths that are of good chemical quality rose from 48% in 1990 to 59% in 1998. Populations of some farmland and woodland birds has fallen by more than half since the mid-1970s, though populations of others, including open-water birds, has been fairly stable.

The proportion of new homes built on previously developed land no change has been much the same since 1989 (though it increased from 1985) and in 1997 was 55%.

H12 Rivers of good or fair quality

H13 Populations of wild birds

H14 New homes built on previously developed land

Household waste has increased by 26% from 1983/84 to 1997/98 negative and now stands at between 170 and 210m tonnes, 60% of which is disposed of by landfill.



no change

Note: In the context of devolution, the Northern Ireland Executive, Scottish Executive, and Welsh Assembly are responsible for elaborating on these national goals and indicators. In total there are 147 indicators

Source: Quality of Life Counts: Indicators for a Strategy for Sustainable Development for the United Kingdom: A Baseline Assessment, Government Statistical Service, 1999

H15 Waste arisings and management

Prudent use of natural resources

Over the past twenty years, the amount of car mileage per head has increased by 65%; road traffic is now eight times that in 1950 (car traffic fourteen times), and it is forecast to grow by a third over the next twenty years.

H11 Road traffic


The average number of days recorded as moderate or higher per recording site fell from 60 days in 1993 to 25 days in 1998.

H10 Days when air pollution is moderate or higher


UK emissions of greenhouse gases fell by 9% between 1990 and 1997 mainly because of the switch from coal to gas and nuclear power electricity generation. Transport emissions are becoming more significant.

H9 Emissions of greenhouse gases

Effective protection of the environment



explains, ‘eco-efficiency may have a useful contribution to make, but it is fanciful to the point of irresponsibility to expect it to be the main means of reconciling economic and environmental aims’ (p. 6). Thus ecological modernisation is not a long-term solution. Nevertheless, improvement in the sustainability indicators is fast becoming an end in itself, though the political significance and impact of the strategy are questionable.11


In February 2000 the DETR published guidance for the preparation of regional sustainable development frameworks (RSDFs), with a requirement for them to be in place by the end of 2000 (although this has proved to be optimistic).12 The regional bodies are responsible for adopting the frameworks, and they will need to be coordinated with the sustainable development work of the regional development agencies (RDAs) and regional planning guidance (RPG). The agencies had previously been issued guidance on incorporating the principles of sustainable development into their economic strategies, and some have set up extensive sustainability issue networks or ‘round tables’. The RSDFs are non-statutory guidance but it is widely recognised that the regional and subregional levels are crucial for many sustainable issues such as waste, water management, renewable energy, agriculture, tourism, and urban–rural interdependencies (McLaren 1998). Progress on regional sustainable development frameworks was underway in some regions, not least because of concerns that neither the regional economic strategies nor the regional guidance has fully addressed Agenda 21. To counter this, the RSDFs are to propose a long-term and high-level vision and establish regional indicators and targets. The objective is to join up social, economic, environmental, and resource considerations, which should certainly provide a common context for the preparation of both RDA strategies and RPG. Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are all in the process of preparing sustainable development strategies.


At the local level, Local Agenda 21 calls for each local authority to prepare and adopt a local sustainable development strategy. These local efforts have been aided by the work and publications of the Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA) (formerly the Local Government Management Board).13 A major feature of the consultation programme at the local level is that it involves much more than the term ‘consultation’ often means. Groups have been established in local areas to debate the meaning of sustainability and to determine how progress towards it can be achieved and assessed (‘you can only manage what you can measure’). These local endeavours are designed to produce policies and indicators which are locally appropriate. The research has underlined the importance of this local ‘ownership’. There is a positive and a negative aspect to this. Positively, ‘Agenda 21 is as much concerned with the process of sustainable development – participative, empowering, consensusseeking, and democratic – as it is with content; and ‘social processes of securing agreement on and commitment to sustainability aims are indispensable’ even where the requirements for sustainability are determined externally (LGMB 1995b). Also, sustainable development strategies draw together many actors into an inclusive network, but ‘this, paradoxically, is potentially its greatest weakness, as excessive inclusivity may lead to a lack of clear purpose, direction and commitment’ (Selman and Wragg 1999). In short, the changes in attitudes and behaviour which will be required by policies of sustainability will come about only if they are acceptable. The negative side to this is the widespread distrust of both local and central government which research has uncovered (Macnaghten et al. 1995). Agenda 21 emphasises equality and economic, social, and political rights. Among the top concerns are poverty, unemployment, and deterioration in the quality of life and the health of local communities. These are reflected to some extent in the local sustainability indicators chosen.14 But similar to practice at the national level, the indicators generally reflect the data that are routinely collected and readily available, and there is limited


opportunity for comparison from one authority to another (Cartwright 2000). The process can ‘easily become cosmetic and bogged down in group dynamics and inertia’ (Scott 1999). In addition, although almost all local authorities are working on a Local Agenda 21 Strategy, their commitment varies considerably (Cartwright 1997). Local Agenda 21 has certainly contributed to the growing awareness of environmental and sustainability issues in local politics, but the sum of evaluations (and a review of examples of strategies) suggests that they have succeeded simply in presenting the agenda, with limited impact on mainstream policy. The question now is how the Local Agenda 21 process proceeds. The likely direction is integration with community planning and Best Value (LGA and IDeA 1998; Hams 2000; Christie 2000).


Environmental politics has become an energetic force on the British scene over the past thirty years, and this is reflected in the growth of environmentally related government units and agencies, advisory panels, and interest groups. Its rise has been prompted by a miscellany of matters, with the most significant first step being prompted by the oil crises of the 1970s, which prompted a new look at resource depletion. Fear of environmental disasters has also played a part, and these seemed more credible after catastrophes such as Seveso, Bhopal, Chernobyl, and, at home, Windscale and Flixborough. The impact of development on natural resources has become clearer with the swing from widespread drought in the late 1990s to even more devastating floods in 2000. Radical campaigners, especially the anti-road tree-dwellers, have also played their part. Thus the environment has become part of the political coinage, and the parties vie with each other in producing convincing statements not only of their concern but also of their workable programmes of action. Curiously, the growth of environmental consciousness was in part due initially to the lack of government concern. The environment was rarely the subject of

political battles. Yet England has been a world pioneer on a number of environmental issues. The Alkali Inspectorate, which was established in 1863, was the world’s first environmental agency. Some of the earliest voluntary organisations had their origin in England: for example, the Commons, Open Spaces and Footpaths Preservation Society in 1865, and the National Trust in 1895 – an organisation that (with over two million members) has grown to be the largest conservation organisation in Europe. The 1947 Town and Country Planning Act introduced a remarkably comprehensive land use planning system (even though, in the circumstances of the time, much of rural land use was purposely omitted). Legislation on clean air has a long history, with its major landmark being the 1956 Act, passed following the killer smog of 1952. The UK also had the first cabinet-level environment department (the Department of the Environment was established in 1970), though its name was, for many years, more impressive than its achievements. Yet these historical events stand as lonely peaks in an otherwise flat plain: until the 1980s, the environment was not a salient political issue (McCormick 1991; Robinson 1992). Part of the reason for this has been the idiosyncratic nature of British pollution control: instead of the formal, legalistic, and adversarial styles common elsewhere, Britain has traditionally operated a system of comfortable negotiation between government technicians and industry. This curiously informal and secretive system avoids confrontation and legalistic procedures (McAuslan 1991).15 All recent administrations have had strong advocates of the environmental cause at Cabinet level, but the topic has not quite made it to the premier-division issues in the UK as it has in some other countries. Margaret Thatcher, for example, was initially averse to environmental concerns, which she viewed as a brake on enterprise. Her administrations followed traditional British practice in responding ‘pragmatically and flexibly, even opportunistically, when environmental issues have threatened to become too contentious’ (Lowe and Flynn 1989: 273).16 Tony Blair was in government for more than three years before making a speech on environment policy, though in 1997 he made a call for all local authorities to complete Agenda




21 strategies by the end of 2000.17 His contribution was very much about environmental problems and there was little acknowledgement of the need for more fundamental changes to achieve more sustainable development, but rather an explicit commitment to continue with the tradition of voluntary agreements with business (Warburton 2000). Even though, global summits aside, prime ministers have not prioritised the environment, certain ministers,18 parliamentary select committees, agencies, advisory bodies, and interest groups have continued to raise the profile of environmental issues. Parliamentary committees are often regarded as ineffectual, but they have been of great value to environmental groups by providing a new public platform and a route for exerting pressure on Parliament. In particular, the reports of the Environment Select Committee have become a respected source of alternative wisdom and relatively accessible information. In 2000 the government established the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC),19 which subsumed the UK Round Table on Sustainable Development and the British Government Panel on Sustainable Development. Its purpose, like that of its predecessors, is to review the extent to which sustainable development is being achieved, identify trends in unsustainability, and deepen understanding of the concept. The two previous organisations made a considerable contribution to government policy with annual and ad hoc reports. The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution has also been an important advocate of improved environmental policy through such reports as Transport and the Environment (1994) and Energy: The Changing Climate (1999). Thus its current review of environmental planning, to be published early in 2001, is of particular interest.20 Another feature of British environmental politics is the active character of some of the important interest groups. Some of these are not merely interest groups: they own and manage extensive areas of land, and they fulfil a range of executive responsibilities. The National Trust and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, for instance, own and manage large areas of protected land. Such bodies are also characteristically charities and therefore debarred from

overt political activity. Lobbying is thus not only well mannered, but also discreet. The emphasis may be more on education than propaganda, though the distinction can be a fine one. Governments may try to outflank environmental groups, but increasingly they cannot ignore them, particularly with their new access to power via the EU. Some thirty British groups, together with eighty from other countries, are members of the European Environmental Bureau, which gives them access to the European Commission and the Council of Ministers (Deimann 1994). The British groups have been able to make good use of their experience in lobbying. According to Lowe and Flynn (1989: 272), they ‘have adapted more easily than many of their counterparts to the successive rounds of consultation and detailed redrafting of directives and regulations that characterise Community decision-making’.


There can be no doubt that the EU has had a major impact on British environmental policy. Indeed, it is not much of an exaggeration to say that much of the government’s policy has been dictated by its directives (Milton 1991: 11; Wilkinson et al. 1998). This is so despite the fact that the Treaty of Rome imposed no environmental obligations on member states, and the Community initially had no environmental competences. Indeed, Article 2 of the Treaty provided that sustained rather than sustainable growth was the aim: ‘a continuous and balanced expansion’. The international scene changed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, with a significant influence being the UN Conference on the Human Environment, which was held in Stockholm in 1972. In the same year, the EC determined that economic expansion should not be ‘an end in itself’, and that ‘special attention will be paid to protection of the environment’ (Robins 1991: 7). In 1973 the first EC Action Programme on the Environment was agreed, covering the period 1973–76. Further programmes followed: the fifth covers the period 1993–2000 and at the time of writing a sixth is in preparation. The Single European Act of 1987


gave added legitimacy by including environmental goals in the Treaty and, significantly, added the important provision that ‘environmental protection requirements shall be a component of the Community’s other policies’ (Haigh 1990: 11). Since then the European Environment Agency (EEA) has been established, with headquarters in Copenhagen, providing a monitoring service for the European institutions.21 The environmental action programmes have had increasing impact on policy and practice in member states. They are ‘forward planning’ documents for emerging policies to be implemented by the EU and followed by national, regional, and local governments. Though they have no binding status, many of the proposals result in directives and other action. The Fifth Action Programme has brought a more comprehensive and long-term approach. The overriding aim of the programme is to ensure that all EU policies have an explicit environmental dimension. It stresses the potential of spatial planning instruments. EU documents are not noted for their brevity, and the programme documents are far too wordy to reproduce, but the following gives some flavour of their character. It also illustrates the importance attached to spatial planning instruments: The community will further encourage activities at local and regional level on issues vital to attain sustainable development, in particular to territorial approaches addressing the urban environment, the rural environment, coastal and island zones, cultural heritage and nature conservation areas. To this purpose, particular attention will be given to: further promoting the potential of spatial planning as an instrument to facilitate sustainable development . . .; developing a comprehensive approach to urban issues . . . [and] developing a demonstration programme on integrated management of coastal zones . . . to facilitate sustainable development, and promote the potential of the European Spatial Development Perspective in addressing the territorial impact of sectoral policy, and the need for greater integration of land use and transport planning. (EC 1992: Towards Sustainability)

But these are only objectives; they need to be transposed into agreed Community law and action. The great majority of EU environmental laws are in the form of directives (see Chapter 3) which give member states some freedom to choose the manner in which

they are transposed into national law. It is unusual for directives to be transposed into national legislation by the due date – which is typically two months after adoption by the Council of Ministers. Nevertheless, they must be implemented ‘in a way which fully meets the requirements of clarity and certainty in legal situations’. States cannot rely on administrative practices carried out under existing legislation (Wägenbaur 1991). Moreover, if a directive is not implemented by national law, it is possible for legal action to be taken by private parties to seek enforcement. In spite of the seemingly very strong powers already possessed by the EU, there is more to come, although the use of Community legislation will give way in some areas to more general agreements and guidelines. The 1987 Amsterdam Treaty incorporated sustainable development as a fundamental objective of the EU and since then there have been commitments to ensure environmental appraisal of all Community policies and actions. In 1999 the Commission undertook an evaluation of the Fifth Action Programme and reported in the Global Assessment, which recognised that though some environmental improvements have been made, ‘less progress has been made overall in changing economic and societal trends which are harmful to the environment’. The report notes that existing environmental policy ‘will not be able to keep pace with . . . demand for road transport, house or road building, etc. . . . growth in these areas simply outweighs the improvements attained by stricter environmental controls’. The paper sets out some ideas for possible future action for discussion and gives a pointer to what might be expected in the sixth action programme.22 This includes: • full implementation of the Habitats and Birds Directives, integration of biodiversity and environmental policy into other Community policies; • implementation of the Communication Sustainable Urban Development: A Framework for Action; • urgent action to protect coastal areas at risk from urbanisation (reckoned to be 85 per cent of the coast); • action to prevent further degradation and loss of soil;




• improved implementation and enforcement of Community environmental legislation; • more attention to market-based instruments (taxes, subsidies, etc.); • a more integrated approach through spatial instruments (with reference to the ESDP); and • stronger involvement of citizens and other stakeholders. THE ENVIRONMENT AGENCIES

The 1995 Environment Act provided for the establishment of an Environment Agency for England and Wales and an equivalent Scottish Environment Protection Agency. The idea of such an agency had been resisted by the government for a number of years, and the change of heart was primarily in response to demands from industry for a one-stop shop for environmental regulation.23 Another factor in the debate was the importance of having an agency that was able to negotiate with the EU from a position of strength. Against this background, the Environment Agency has taken over the responsibilities of bodies which had been established by a reorganisation only a few years earlier. In England and Wales these were the National Rivers Authority, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Pollution, and the local waste regulation authorities. In Scotland they were the river purification authorities, HM Industrial Pollution Inspectorate, and the waste regulation and local air pollution responsibilities of the district and islands councils. In Northern Ireland the DoENI has all the responsibilities for environmental protection except waste disposal which lies with the local authorities. The agencies are non-departmental public bodies, operating on Next Steps lines: the management has a large degree of freedom within the framework of ministerial guidance and its management framework. The framework is based on the government’s overall environmental strategy set out now in A Better Quality of Life: A Strategy for Sustainable Development for the UK (1999). The agencies are in the process of reviewing their policies in the light of the new strategy, but an important implication of sustainable development is

that they take an integrated approach to their responsibilities: this, indeed, is its essential raison d’être. Sustainable development is also leading the agencies to reflect on the traditional reactive and regulatory approach and to add a ‘more forceful dimension’. Part of this for the Environment Agency includes a commitment to creating ‘a single regulatory system that covers the environmental impact of processes and their resource use, products and their effects, and their impact on land use’. And it foresees an increasing role for local authorities and development agencies such that land use planning and development control are ‘more closely aligned to environmental risks and steps necessary to avoid them’.24 Establishing more integration and prevention rather than regulation is a considerable challenge. The functions of the agencies are already very wide, including industrial pollution; aspects of waste, including radioactive substances, water resources, and quality; the implementation of a number of EU Directives; and, in Scotland, local air pollution control. Further links with land use planning are also anticipated. In their longterm strategies the environment agencies have adopted a thematic approach for its objectives as shown in Box 7.4. The main tools by which these objectives are addressed by the agencies and other bodies are discussed below. BATNEEC, BPEO, AND BPM

In their regulation-of-pollution role, environmental bodies have generally sought to achieve the best practicable means (affectionately known as BPM) of dealing with problems – ‘means’ that will go as far as seems reasonable towards meeting desirable standards but which do not involve too great a strain on the polluter’s resources. This approach has a long history: indeed, it has been the cornerstone of industrial air pollution control since the Alkali Act of 1874. Its modern version has been expanded to BPEO: best practicable environmental option, which retains the element of negotiation but involves a wider consideration of environmental factors and an openness which was foreign to its predecessor (RCEP 1988: para. 1.3).25 Central to this principle is the recognition of the need


for a coordinated approach to pollution control, taking into account the danger of the transfer of pollutants from one medium to another, as well as the need for prevention. The current regime under the Environment Protection Act 1990 requires the regulating authority to ensure that the best available techniques not entailing excessive cost (BATNEEC) are being used: (1) for preventing the release of prescribed substances into an environmental medium, or, where that is not practicable, for reducing the release to a minimum; and (2) for rendering harmless any other substance which could cause harm if released into any environmental medium.

BATNEEC is the concept favoured by and introduced in EU Directives, and has now been adopted in English environmental law. It is the responsibility of the operator to demonstrate that the requirements of BATNEEC are met and also to demonstrate their competence and experience, and that effective environmental management controls are in place. Additionally, certain statutory environmental standards (‘quality objectives’), specified emission limits, or national quotas have to be met. Where a process involves the release of harmful substances to more than one medium, BPEO must also be demonstrated – thus there may be trade-offs among the effects in one environmental medium against another. In order to judge the effects of different emissions in different media an integrated permit process has been adopted.


Among the innovations made in environmental policy a particularly interesting one is that of integrated pollution control (IPC).26 This is the administrative apparatus for implementing the best practicable environmental option (BPEO). It contrasts with the customary British method of operating different controls in isolation, with separate approaches to individual forms of pollution. The crucial problem with this is that

pollution does not abide by the boundaries of air, land, and water: pollution is mobile. In the jargon, it is a ‘cross-media’ problem. A 1996 EU Directive (96/61) extended the regulatory regime and controls when implemented by the Pollution, Prevention and Control Act and Regulations in 2000. The new regime, integrated pollution, prevention, and control (IPPC) will cover 6,500 industrial processes with integrated controls over pollution, noise, waste reduction, energy efficiency, and site restoration. All operators of installations covering any of the listed processes require a permit which will cover all controls where the applicant will need to demonstrate that best available techniques (BAT) are being used. PENALTIES FOR POLLUTION

A striking feature of the recent environmental legislation is the severity of the penalties for polluting (Harris 1992a). One feature in particular is noteworthy: the use of ‘strict liability’. Generally, under English law, the prosecution has the burden of proving that a defendant is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. The 1990 Act, however, provides that where it is alleged that BATNEEC has not been used in a prescribed operation, ‘it shall be for the accused to prove that there was no better available technique not entailing excessive cost than was in fact used’. This makes an offence one of ‘strict liability’, in contrast to the traditional one of ‘fault-based’.27 Though its use is likely to be rare, it is indicative of the change in official attitudes to pollution (documented in RowanRobinson and Ross 1994). It will also involve highly technical matters, which may present severe difficulties for the existing courts. Indeed, some have argued that there is a need for a specialised court (Carnwath 1992; Cambridge University 1999).


Public opinion is in favour of regulatory standards because of their apparent fairness: all are required to





• People will have peace of mind from knowing that they live in a clean, safe, and diverse environment that they can use, appreciate, and enjoy. • Both urban and rural areas will have an obvious and overall improvement in the extent and quality of their habitats and the wildlife that they support. • Industry and businesses generally will be managed in a way that fully protects human health and the environment. • Waste and wasteful behaviour will no longer be a major environmental threat because of the reuse of resources and the adoption of sustainable waste management practices. • Neither human health nor the natural and manmade environments will be damaged by emissions to the atmosphere. • There will be sufficient clean and healthy waters to support people’s needs and those of wildlife. • The natural resources provided by the land will be enhanced, harm to people and wildlife will be avoided, and a wide range of land uses will be supportable. • Flood warnings and sustainable defences will continue to prevent deaths from flooding; property damage and distress will have been minimised; and all the benefits to be derived from natural floods will be exploited. • Greenhouse gas emissions will have been greatly reduced and society will have adapted efficiently to climatic change and be prepared for further changes.

• Scotland will have an economic base of sustainable industries providing the wealth creation thus enabling the population to enjoy and appreciate the high quality of their environment. • The way in which society is organised and managed will have changed in response to pressure for sustainable development. • Emissions of contaminants will be licensed such that they do not exceed the capacity of the environment to assimilate them. • Pollution from diffuse sources will be coming under control through the wide adoption of good practice. • Waste will be effectively minimised, reused or recycled. • The amenity value of rural and urban environments will be significantly improved, with reductions in litter and other unacceptable impacts. • The rate of loss of greenfield land will be reduced, with development taking place more often on brownfield sites. • There will be increased energy supply from renewable and low impact sources. • Decisions which affect people’s quality of life will be taken according to local circumstances. (Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Environmental Strategy, 1998)

(Environment Agency, Creating an Environmental Vision, 2000) meet the same target. Polluters may also like them because of the certainty which they give to the market. In fact, the fairness is illusory. Fixed standards impose quite different costs on different firms, depending for

example on the state of their machinery and processes. More importantly in terms of effective environmental improvement, firms will tend not to seek anything beyond the regulatory standard even if they can achieve


a higher standard at relatively low cost. They have no incentive to do so, unless they thereby obtain other benefits. There are considerable advantages to be derived from designing pollution controls in a way that gives firms economic incentives to reduce pollution to the maximum extent. If, for example, a tax is levied for every tonne of waste produced, a firm will be motivated to review its processes to reduce its waste to the minimum. Positive market incentives may also overcome the reluctance of some firms to meet regulatory standards and reduce the costs of regulation. Since administrative resources are typically inadequate, this is a significant issue. Overstretched agencies may well know that some firms are in default, but they may have some difficulty proving it, or they may have to accept a firm’s assurance that it is doing the best it can. Particularly bad cases may be prosecuted, but this takes even more time and resources, and the courts can be unpredictable. In all, as the UK Round Table on Sustainable Development (2000) and others have pointed out, there is a strong case for further developing the use of economic instruments for implementing environmental policy and sustainability in the UK, especially when used as part of complementary packages including regulation, negotiated agreements, and changes to mainstream spending programmes. Economic instruments can take many forms. The simplest economic instrument is a tax – either to deter negative actions (waste) or to promote positive ones (technological developments). For example, a tax may be levied on pollution at a rate determined in relation to the damage caused and the costs of clean-up. Such a tax could be levied on lead or carbon content. (Several European countries have such a carbon tax.) The tax provides an immediate incentive to firms to reduce their use of the pollutant – and it is a continuing incentive. The difficulty arises in setting an equitable rate – a problem which also arises with marketable pollution permits, which the government is intending to introduce. Economic incentives can be applied to some types of waste with a deposit refund system. This is essentially the same as the charges on returnable bottles,

though rather more complicated. The producer of something which would become a waste after it has been used in a manufacturing process (a solvent for instance) would be required to pay a charge for each unit produced. This would increase its price (thereby introducing an incentive for reduction in its use). A refund of the charge would be payable to anyone who returned the solvent after its use. This system has the advantage of providing a disincentive to illegal tipping. The same system can be applied to motor vehicles. All the advisory bodies have spent considerable time in debating and recommending the use of economic instruments and they recognise progress made, while pointing out that there is undoubtedly much more that can be done.28 Some possible innovations, such as road pricing, have been debated for many years, but the technical and political difficulties constitute a major obstacle. Implementation of congestion charging is expected in London during the current term of the GLA. Progress has been made in the fields of landfill tax implemented in 1996 (following the EU Directive) and the creation of environmental trusts (including one that supports cars with alternative fuels). Satellite national accounts have been prepared that address economic, social, and environmental costs but so far are separate from the main national accounts. The Budget statement now includes a note on its environmental impacts. Proposals have been mooted in consultation papers,29 but there is also lots of scope to make improvements by amending existing mainstream spending, especially in relation to procurement and subsidies. Environmentally damaging subsidies have been estimated at £20,000 million per year (Government Panel on Sustainable Development Third Annual Report 1997). Some, including company car tax benefits and road fund licensing, are now being amended to reflect environmental costs.


The requirement for the production of catchment management plans previously held by the NRA was




transferred on their creation to the Environment Agencies. In England and Wales these have been supplemented by local environmental agency plans (LEAPs), which are of smaller scale, covering a small or sub-catchment area and cover the full range of topics for which the Environment Agency is responsible – primarily pollution, waste, water, and air quality. LEAPs are non-statutory documents and progress in their preparation has been slow but they may be a material consideration in development control. Local planning authorities are encouraged to take them into account in the review of development plans. There is wide consultation with local authorities, other bodies, and the public during the preparation of LEAPs. Note that although the catchment type of boundary is particularly useful for water management, it is less relevant for air quality and waste management, which are traditionally much closer to local authority boundaries. Nevertheless, they offer possibilities for the better integration of environmental policy in a territorial plan and in this sense perhaps may develop in a similar way to the German landscape plans. The proposed EU Water Framework Directive will require the preparation of river basin management plans (RBMPs) for geographical areas around catchments, coasts, and estuaries. The plan will need to link water management to other environmental and economic activities in the area, for example in relation to impacts on the demand for water and the water environment. Almost certainly RBMPs will be developed from existing catchment plans (and in England LEAPs). They will have statutory force and may be binding, with yet further implications for town and country planning.


Concern about air pollution is not new: it was as early as 1273 that action in Britain was first taken to protect the environment from polluted air. A royal proclamation of that year prohibited the use of coal in London and one man was sent to the scaffold in 1306 for burning coal instead of charcoal. Those who pollute

the air are no longer sent to the gallows, but though gentler methods are now preferred, it was not until the disastrous London smog of 1952 (resulting in 4,000 deaths) that really effective action was taken. The Clean Air Acts of 1956 and 1968 introduced regulation of emissions of dark smoke, grit, and dust from furnaces, chimney heights, and domestic smoke. Local authorities were empowered to establish smoke control areas, which were very effective (coupled with the switch from coal fires to central heating). Air quality has improved considerably over the past three to four decades: smoke emissions have fallen by 85 per cent since 1960; the notorious big-city smogs are a thing of the past; and hours of winter sunshine in central London have increased by 70 per cent. In matters of the environment, however, problems are never ‘solved’: they are merely replaced by new ones – and there is now a long list of damaging air-borne pollutants that are the subject of new research, policies, and actions.30 Current trends show that the improvements made in respect of industrial and domestic sources of air pollution are being eroded by the damaging effect of increased traffic sources (Banister 1999; Stead and Nadin 2000). Moreover, severe problems in the shorter run can be expected in ‘hotspots’, particularly in congested urban centres. Government has been very active on air quality, and in this field the UK is a leader. The 1994 and 1999 UK sustainable development strategies both give prominence to improving air quality. A UK National Air Quality Strategy (NAQS) (1997) has been agreed with national standards and targets, and is already under review in the light of new research findings. A comprehensive network of air quality monitoring stations is in place.31 Local authorities have to undertake periodic reviews of air quality and identify the areas where national targets are not likely to be met. They then produce local air quality management plans for the specified areas.32 Air quality management plans will seek to reduce emissions through addressing the sources and distribution, especially traffic (which is discussed further in Chapter 11). They may, in principle, designate areas which should be closed to traffic or be restricted to low-emission vehicles – although care will be needed to avoid displacement effects, and


some ‘local’ pollution will have a non-local source. In practice they are not proving to be so radical (Miller 2000). Recent advice to planning authorities suggests that the long-held separation of the role of land use planning from pollution control is being eroded. The 1997 paper Air Quality and Land Use Planning says that Where the impact of development is likely to be significant in air quality terms, then, provided the impact relates to the use and amenity of land, the planning application may be refused or the impact mitigated by the imposing of conditions. (DETR 1997: para. 370)

Although it is restricted to questions of the use and amenity of land (as opposed to health) there is a clear signal to authorities to use planning powers to improve air quality conditions. But air quality standards are not easy to determine: the scientific base is inadequate, and a great deal of judgement is necessary. The governmental response to this has been to work towards two measures: a long-term goal, and an operational threshold which indicates when conditions are of so low a quality as to require an immediate response. (Confusingly, these are both termed ‘standards’.) Local planning authorities are expected to have regard to the local air quality management plans and to the national standards in preparing land use development plans, and in carrying out other duties such as transport planning. The EU has played a critical role in bringing about air quality initiatives, largely supported by the UK. The Air Quality Framework Directive of 1996 sets target values for twelve air pollutants which are to be elaborated and revised under ‘daughter directives’ (and provided a stimulus for the publication of the NAQS. The first daughter directive was agreed under the UK Presidency in 1998 and adopted in 1999. It covers sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particles, and lead. The second addresses carbon monoxide and benzene, and at the time of writing is moving towards adoption. A third on ozone is in preparation.


The Environment Agencies hold the main regulatory powers over the water environment, although they

have no operational responsibilities (these are carried out by the water service companies, or in some cases local authorities). The Agencies have statutory functions in relation to water resources, and the control of pollution in inland, underground, and coastal waters. Their powers are wide, but there are three critical issues in relation to planning: water quality and pollution; the maintenance of water supplies; and flooding.33 On water quality the Agencies can take preventive action to stop pollution, take remedial steps where pollution has already occurred, and recover from a polluter the reasonable costs of doing so. The Agencies have inherited and continued to develop a sophisticated and relatively public regulatory system which involves the setting of water quality objectives and a requirement that consent is obtained for discharges of trade and sewage effluent to controlled waters. Extensive monitoring programmes include surveys of the quality of rivers, estuaries, and coastal waters. The highly detailed figures produced from these surveys are not easy to summarise or to interpret, and performance is mixed. River quality is improving and there was a net upgrading of 26 per cent of total monitored length of rivers and canals in England and Wales between 1990 and 1994, but pollution incidents rose over the past decade. Nitrate levels in rivers have remained constant but in some groundwater sites are still rising (Stead and Nadin 2000: 348). Mostly as a result of investment in sewerage works, bathing water quality is improving. In 2000, 211 (44.8 per cent) of the 471 beaches tested in England and Wales met the ‘blue diamond’ standard34 of the EU Bathing Waters Directive, and 95 per cent passed the mandatory tests. In Scotland 26 out of 60 got the blue flag and 53 passed the mandatory standard. As a country surrounded by water and with an annual rainfall of around 1,100 millimetres, one might expect that there would be no question about adequate supply of water. However, rain falls unevenly over both area and time. In the mountainous areas of the Lake District, Scotland, and Wales, average annual rainfall exceeds 2,400 mm, and for most of the country there is a significant margin between effective rainfall and abstraction. But in the Thames estuary rainfall is less




than 500 mm, and for much of the Thames and Anglian regions licensed abstractions are more than two-thirds effective annual average rainfall. This is of great concern, even given the high level of reuse, because these are also the regions with the highest demands for new development. The drought of 1988– 92 and long, hot, dry summer of 1995 raised awareness about the impact of demand, with unacceptably low levels in some rivers, and supply constraints. As a result, there has been a stream of official reports and consultation papers, and development of academic studies in this area, which had received remarkably little attention previously (at least in the UK). The need for a major programme of new investment is now widely recognised, not only to replace outworn facilities, but also to meet new demands for water, for environmental protection, and for sustainability. At the same time, increased concerns about water supply have come from developers and the public. The result is a renewed awareness of the importance of the relationship between water and land use planning (Slater et al. 1994: 376; see also PPG 12). In addition, government has made a requirement for twenty-fiveyear resource plans from water companies and targets for reduction of leakage of 25 per cent over three years (in 1997 about 25 per cent was lost through leakage). Demand management is certainly coming to the fore in relation to water supplies, but some areas have more water than they can cope with. Flooding has moved up the priority list of critical issues during the 1990s, and especially since the floods of Easter 1998. This prompted a review of planning guidance on flooding and development, but no sooner was this completed than the worst floods since records began (400 years ago) devastated much of the country in 2000. The wettest autumn on record (457 mm in three months) resulted in floods in England and Wales affecting 7,406 homes at an estimated cost of £500 million and two deaths (but let’s not forget that at the same time, defences protected more than 400,000 homes). The severity of the floods is reflected in one report that ‘RNLI lifeboats operated on the High Street to rescue residents trapped in the upper floors of buildings’.35 Flooding is inevitable, of course; it is part of a natural environmental cycle and cannot be

prevented, but there is much that can be done to prevent flood risk and mitigate the consequences. The environment agencies predict that flooding events will become more numerous and severe.36 The reasons for flooding are complex and very much dependent on the conditions of particular catchments and ‘coastal cells’. Global warming and associated sea level rise (and land movements) with greater and more intense periods of rainfall play a part. So do engineering works to drainage systems, rivers, and coastlines (flood defences in one location can cause problems elsewhere), and agricultural practices that increase the rate of run-off. The type and location of new development are the major issues for the planning system, both within flood plains and adjacent rivers and the coast, but also in more distant locations, where it can increase the amount and speed of run-off. The planning system has come in for considerable criticism during the latest round of floods. There is no doubt that building on flood plains in particular has had an impact, though the environment agencies and their predecessors will have been consulted on these developments. The Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs undertook a review of development on, or affecting, the flood plain in the aftermath of the 2000 floods and prior to the finalisation of new government guidance. Its conclusions were clear on the critical effect of increased run-off caused by new development; development in flood plains; and particularly development in functional flood plains or washlands that are used for storage during floods. There are now more than 1.8 million homes in flood risk areas. The Environment Agency estimates that 8 per cent of the land area of England and Wales is at risk from flooding and that if current development patterns persist, a further 342,000 homes may be added to those at risk by 2021 (Creating an Environmental Vision: Progressing the Environmental Agency’s Contribution to Sustainable Development, 2000). Planning guidance on flood risk has for some years emphasised that it is a material consideration and that it is appropriate to refuse permission in cases where risk is unacceptable. Recent revisions have strengthened this advice with reference to the sustainable


development and the precautionary principle.37 In the words of the Scottish guidance, ‘planning authorities should first, seek to avoid increasing the flood risk by refusing permission where appropriate, and secondly, seek to manage the threat of flooding only in cases where other reasons for granting permission take precedence over flood risk’ (NPPG 7, 1995: para. 42). Particular care is promoted in dealing with development proposals that lie just beyond existing flood defences, where a breach may involve a high risk of life. In these cases the advice is even stronger: ‘development should not be permitted where the existing flood defences would not provide an acceptable level of safety’. The same applies to caravans in areas of high risk. Responsibility for determining the extent of risk formally lies with the landowner, although all planning authorities have been issued with flood risk maps by the environment agencies. A particular problem applies where intensification may result from development that does not require planning permission, in which case planning authorities should consider Article 4 directions to remove permitted development rights. Development plans should take into account flood risk, especially where there is a history of flooding, and the environment agencies are important consultees on this matter. Policies and decisions need to be consistent with shoreline management plans and LEAPs. Although the current and proposed guidance is firm, it did not satisfy the Select Committee, which made clear recommendations for stronger national guidance, and they are likely to be accepted by government. The Committee wants to see in effect a presumption against development in the flood plain and the adoption of a sequential approach – and this will apply to brownfield sites too. Land already allocated for development which does not pass stringent new tests should be deallocated in plans, and MAFF has been told to implement the environmental impact assessment to agricultural practices. In conclusion, the Committee points to the enormous costs of improving flood defences over coming years, with the Thames Barrier for one becoming redundant before the middle of the century.


The UK produces over 400 million tonnes of waste each year. Details of the recycling and disposal of the 116 million tonnes of industrial, commercial and domestic waste are given in Table 7.4. The rest is mostly agricultural, mining, and quarrying waste and sewage sludge. The legislation covering waste management is immense, with twenty-eight relevant EU directives alone. Essentially, the 1990 Act imposes a duty of care on all who are concerned with controlled waste. This duty, similar to that imposed on employers by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, is designed to ensure that waste is properly managed. It should be collected, transported, stored, recovered, and disposed of without harm to human health or the environment. The law also ensures that the responsible authorities develop plans for managing and disposing of waste.38 Waste regulation functions are the responsibility of the environment agencies. Waste collection remains with local government. Waste planning is the responsibility of local planning authorities (in two-tier areas it is the county), and the regional bodies also have responsibility for waste planning policy for the region. Waste planning authorities must identify suitable sites for the disposal and handling of waste in the context of BPEO, the integrated approach to environmental management, and the government’s national objectives for waste. Guidance for waste planning authorities in England is provided in PPG 10, Planning and Waste Management.39 National waste policy was initially set out in the 1995 strategy for sustainable waste management, Making Waste Work, which has subsequently been superseded by the Waste Strategy 2000 for England and Wales. The strategy and the targets and indicators it promotes are material considerations in planning. Given the nature of waste policy, regional bodies are specially encouraged to address waste policy in revised regional planning guidance. Local authorities will rarely be able to address waste issues independently and there is much to be gained from cooperation at the regional level, although self-sufficiency within regions is encouraged. The waste planning authority (the



TOWN AND COUNTRY PLANNING IN THE UK Table 7.4 Estimated Waste Production Recycling and Disposal 1998–99 Waste type

Generation (m tonnes)

Recovered and recycled

Disposal landfill


Inert, in-house construction




Paper and card




5% 1%





13% 11%

Other general and biodegradable




Metals and scrap equipment





Contaminated and health care





Mineral waste and residues










General commercial





General industrial





Municipal (household) waste







Source: Waste Strategy 2000, England and Wales (Part 2: 13–14)

authority that deals with waste planning applications) will be the county in two-tier areas and the unitary council, national park, or London borough elsewhere. Where there is a structure plan, this will also include policies on waste. There will be a specific waste local plan also at the county level. Most unitary authorities include waste policies within their unitary development plans (see Chapter 4). Minerals come under a different provision, but, since a significant proportion of waste arises from mineral workings, waste and mineral plans can be combined. Waste policies deal with all types of waste, including scrapyards, clinical and other types of waste incinerator, landfill sites, waste storage facilities, recycling and waste reception centres, concrete crushing and blacktop reprocessing facilities, and bottle banks. National policy and targets are playing an increasingly important role. National policy is now very comprehensive (if not always very ambitious) and includes the general principles of moving away from landfill towards recycling, composting, and recovering energy from waste. Nevertheless, there is still a

requirement for making a realistic assessment of the need for waste facilities and ‘ensuring that there is adequate scope for the provision of the right facilities in the right places’. Planning authorities have the responsibility of ensuring that waste facilities are not developed in locations where they would be harmful or otherwise unacceptable for land use reasons. In this they need to work closely with the environment agencies to ensure that planning and pollution regulation are consistent. A closely integrated ‘twin-track’ approach is being promoted by the agencies. Planning authorities also have an important positive planning role in waste management through promoting ‘the proximity principle’ and the ‘regional selfsufficiency principle’. These stem from the desirability of waste recovery or disposal being close to the place where it is produced. This ‘encourages communities to take more responsibility for the waste which they – either themselves as householders, or their local industry – produce. It is their problem, not someone else’s.’ It also limits environmental damage due to the transportation of waste.


The potential for recycling slipped down the policy agenda for some years after peaking in the 1960s, but is now being renewed, presenting more challenges to the planning system. The provision of waste disposal sites was relatively problem free for the system, which relied on the availability of mineral workings to provide suitable sites. The big issues were the responsibility of pollution control (Davoudi 1999). But as stricter controls, EU policy, and rising development pressures to be accommodated in a plan-led process, together with more demand for waste sorting and bulking depots and recovery facilities, the planning issues became more complex. Waste generates considerable public concern, and waste plans and policies

BOX 7.5

are among the most contentious. As a result, planning is playing a more central role in the waste management process. Again the EU has played an important part in stimulating action in the UK, including the preparation of the national strategies. The EU Landfill Directive (99/31) requires ambitious national targets to be set for the reduction of biodegradable municipal waste sent to landfill, banning the disposal of hazardous and non-hazardous wastes together, and banning the landfill of tyres and liquid wastes. Other objectives for waste management that the planning system needs to take into account are summarised in Box 7.5.


Landfill of municipal waste By 2010 to reduce biogradable municipal waste landfilled to 75% of that produced in 1995 By 2013 to reduce biogradable municipal waste landfilled to 50% of that produced in 1995 By 2020 to reduce biogradable municipal waste landfilled to 35% of that produced in 1995 Landfill of industrial and commercial waste By 2005 to reduce the amount of industrial and commercial waste sent to landfill to 85% of that landfilled in 1998 Recovery of municipal waste To recycle or compost at least 25% of household waste by 2005 To recycle or compost at least 30% of household waste by 2010 To recycle or compost at least 33% of household waste by 2015 To recover value from 40% of municipal waste by 2005 To recover value from 45% of municipal waste by 2010 To recover value from 67% of municipal waste by 2015 (Recover means recycling, composting, and energy recovery) Source: Waste Strategy 2000


‘Quiet costs money . . . a machine manufacturer will try to make a quieter product only if he is forced to, either by legislation or because customers want quiet

machines and will choose a rival product for a lower noise level.’ So stated the Wilson Committee in 1963. This, in one sense, is the crux of the problem of noise. More, and more powerful, cars, aircraft, portable radios and the like must receive strong public opprobrium




before manufacturers – and users – will be concerned with their noise level. Similarly, legislative measures and their implementation require public support before effective action can be taken. As with other aspects of environmental quality, attitudes to noise and its control have changed in recent years, partly as a result of the advent of new sources of noise such as portable music centres, personal stereos, and electric DIY and garden equipment, as well as greatly increased traffic. (Developments in electronics have also provided easier methods of obtaining data on noise.) The increased concern about noise is reflected in a succession of inquiries and new planning guidance (PPG 24: Planning and Noise). More substantively, two Acts have been passed to provide stronger measures for dealing with the problems. The Noise and Statutory Nuisance Act, which was passed in 1993, strengthened local authority powers to deal with burglar alarms, noisy vehicles and equipment, and various other noise nuisances. Second, the Noise Act of 1996 provided a summary procedure for dealing with noise at night (11 p.m. to 7 a.m.). This includes powers for local authorities to serve a warning notice, and to seize equipment which is the source of offending noise. The 1996 Act does not require local authorities to use its provisions, but the situation is to be reviewed in the light of experience. There are three ways in which noise is regulated: by setting limits to noise at source (as with aircraft, motorcycles, and lawnmowers); separating noise from people (as with subsidised double glazing in houses affected by serious noise from aircraft or from new roads); and exercising controls over noise nuisance. Where intolerable noise cannot be reduced and reduces property values, an action can be pursued at common law or, in the case of certain public works, compensation can be obtained under the Land Compensation Act 1973. Noise from neighbours is the most common source of noise nuisance and complaints. This is a difficult problem to deal with, and official encouragement is being given to various types of neighbourhood action, such as ‘quiet neighbourhood’, ‘neighbourhood noise watch’, noise mediation, and similar schemes (Oliver and Waite 1989). There is provision under the Control

of Pollution Act 1974 for the designation by local authorities of noise abatement zones, though the statutory procedures for these are cumbersome and, in any case, they are not well suited to dealing with neighbourhood noise in residential areas (though they are useful for regulating industrial and commercial areas). Traffic noise takes many forms and is being tackled in various ways (conveniently summarised in chapter 4 of the Royal Commission on the Environment 1994 report Transport and the Environment). Road traffic noise is the most serious in the sense that it affects the most people. Here emphasis is being put on the development of quieter road surfaces and vehicles. Aircraft noise has long been subject to controls both nationally and (with the UK in the lead) internationally. The principal London airports are required by statute to provide sound insulation to homes seriously affected by aircraft noise, and similar non-statutory schemes apply to major airports in the provinces. Noise is a material consideration in planning decisions, and development plans may contain policies on noise particularly where there are major noise generators such as airports (although the reproduction of detailed noise contours in plans is not recommended). PPG 24 sets out four noise exposure categories (NECs) and in the worst case (category D) permission should normally be refused. The definition of the boundaries between categories is difficult for non-experts, but they are clearly insufficient to prevent the building of houses adjacent to motorways. Such decisions aside, local authorities are taking more interest in noise and one – Birmingham City Council – with the support of the DETR (and building on practice in other European countries) has produced a noise map of the whole of the city, including the impact of road, rail, and air traffic and ambient noise levels during both the day and night. The exercise anticipates legislation that may require such noise mapping for all urban areas. The CPRE has already produced a map of tranquil areas for the whole of England comparing the 1960s with the 1990s, which demonstrates the extensive intrusion of noise.40 It will not come as a surprise that the EU has a noise directive in preparation which includes a requirement


for noise mapping together with action plans to address identified problems and reduce the number of people exposed to excessive noise, and for the provision of information on noise levels to the public.


As environmental issues have become more complex, ways have been sought to measure the impacts of development. Cost–benefit analysis was at one time seen as a good guide to action. By taking into account non-priced benefits such as the saving of time and the reduction in accidents, it can ‘prove’ that developments such as the Victoria Underground line in London are justified. Useful though this technique is for incorporating certain non-market issues into the decisionmaking process, it has serious limitations. In particular (quite apart from the problems of valuing ‘time’), some things are beyond price, while others have quite different ‘values’ for different groups of the population. Reducing everything to a monetary price ignores factors such as these. Alternatives such as Lichfield’s planning balance sheet and Hill’s goals achievement matrix attempt to take a much wider range of factors into account. Environmental impact assessment (EIA) is a procedure introduced into the British planning system as a result of an EC Directive.41 Though it might appear that environmental assessment is nothing new on the British planning scene (hasn’t this always been done with important projects?), it is in fact conceptually different in that it involves in theory a highly systematic quantitative and qualitative review of proposed projects – though practice is somewhat different (Wood and Jones 1991). Nevertheless, unlike some European countries, Britain has had, since the 1947 Act, a relatively sophisticated system which involves a case-by-case review of development proposals. Indeed, the UK government resisted the imposition of this scheme through the Directive. A summary of the procedure is given in Figure 7.1. It is important to appreciate that EIA is a process. The production of an environmental statement (ES) is

one part of this. The process involves the gathering of information on the environmental effects of a development. This information comes from a variety of sources: the developer, the local planning authority, statutory consultees (such as the Countryside Agency and environment agencies), and third parties (including environmental groups). There are now many evaluations of practice both in the UK and elsewhere. For some types of development an EIA is mandatory. These are listed in schedule 1 of the regulations (and are therefore inevitably known as ‘Schedule 1 projects’). They include large developments such as power stations, airports, installations for the storage of radioactive waste, motorways, ports, and suchlike. Projects for which EIA may be required (‘Schedule 2 projects’) are those which have significant environmental impacts. There are three main types of development where it is considered that an EIA is needed: 1 for major projects which are of more than local importance, principally in terms of physical size; 2 ‘occasionally’ for projects proposed for particularly sensitive or vulnerable locations, for example a national park or a SSSI; and 3 ‘in a small number of cases’ for projects with unusually complex or potentially adverse effects, where expert analysis is desirable – for example, with the discharge of pollutants. There is a marked resemblance between this and the circumstances in which the Secretary of State may exercise the powers of ‘call-in’ – they both relate to developments of particular importance which require more than a normal scrutiny for planning and environmental purposes. In 1995 permitted development rights were withdrawn from projects listed in Schedule 1, and also for projects having likely significant environmental effects (DoE Circular 3/95). Good practice guidance based on evaluation of the implementation of the EIA process is extensive (see the list of DETR publications) with useful comparisons among countries (European Commission, Evaluation of the Performance of the EIA Process Final Report, 1998).


Figure 7.1 The Environmental Impact Assessment Process


Wood and Bellinger (1999) record that in the first ten years of the implementation of the Directive in the UK (from 1988), 3,000 environmental statements had been prepared. Drawing on other evaluations, Glasson (1999: 367) notes that EIA is a more structured approach to handling planning applications . . . projects and the environment benefit greatly from EIA . . . and consultants feel that EIA has brought about at least some improvements in environmental protection, in project design and the higher regard given to environmental issues.

Against this there are problems connected to the ‘dual consent procedure’: EIA in the planning process takes place alongside IPPC and leads to duplication of effort; the lack of attention to alternative options (although the revised Regulations address this); and the blueprint ‘build it and forget approach’ that tends not to consider the environmental effects of development over its full lifetime, or cumulative impacts. Other evaluations have also shown that EIA may have only a marginal effect on some projects (Blackmore et al. 1997).


After many years of debate a political agreement was reached at the end of 1999 on the proposed Directive on the Assessment of the Effects of Certain Plans and Programmes on the Environment (the SEA Directive).42 The Directive will require EU member states to establish procedures to ensure that environmental consequences of plans and programmes are identified before they are adopted, and that effective consultation is undertaken on the environmental implications. The main requirements in the amended proposed Directive are: • assessment of the environmental effects of ‘all plans and programmes’;43 • preparation of an environmental report identifying and evaluating the environmental effects of implementing the plan or programme; • consultation with relevant authorities, NGOs, and the public, and with other member states if there are transboundary impacts; and

• statements summarising how the environmental considerations have been integrated into the plan or programme alongside the plan or programme itself. The main change from the previous draft Directive is the link made to projects which require environmental assessment under the EIA and Habitats Directives. Plans that do not deal with this relatively significant scale of project will not be subject to SEA. In effect, provisions for SEA are already in place in the UK for development plans through the requirement for environmental assessment, and considerable expertise has been developed since publication of the DoE Good Practice Guide. The scope of appraisal has been widened to become, in some cases, ‘sustainability appraisal’ and its use extended to the regional level. Nevertheless, it has been argued that the appraisal process is not contributing to policy-making; that it is highly subjective; and that it leads to inconsistent conclusions (Russell 2000).44 It is unlikely, therefore, that the Directive in its current form will make a big impression on town and country planning. The next stage may be of more consequence as experience from other European countries becomes better known in the UK. For example, the DETR is proposing research on the idea of ‘territorial impact assessment’, and others are proposing more radical steps in relation to environmental or ecological compensation schemes (Wilding and Raemaekers 2000). Both are already employed in Germany.


For a history of pollution control and much else on the origins of ‘environmental policy’, see Ashby and Anderson (1981) The Politics of Clean Air. Also strongly recommended is Ashby’s reflective Reconciling Man with the Environment (1978). A detailed legal sourcebook is the Encyclopaedia of Environmental Law edited by Tromans et al. (looseleaf; updated regularly). Less daunting is Hughes (1996) Environmental Law. Miller’s background paper for the RCEP, Planning and Pollution Revisited (2000) and Wood (1999) ‘Environmental




planning’ both trace the history of the relationship. PPG 24 provides a summary of government policy, though this is now a little dated. Sustainability Only the briefest indication of the mass of publications on sustainability can be given here. The Brundtland Report (Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987) Our Common Future is perhaps the most quoted and misquoted source on sustainability; though its interest is increasingly historical, it is still an important original source. Major UK official references on sustainability are cited in the text, and it is certainly worthwhile to start with A Better Quality of Life: A Strategy for Sustainable Development for the United Kingdom; the related national strategies and Sustainability Counts on indicators (bearing in mind that this is a government interpretation of sustainability). For a more critical review, see Jacobs (1999) Environmental Modernisation; Owens (1994a) ‘Land, limits and sustainability’; Khan (1995) ‘Sustainable development: the key concepts, issues and implications’; and Church and McHarry (1999) One Small Step: A Guide to Action on Sustainable Development in the UK. For US perspective, see Board on Sustainable Development, Policy Division (1999) Our Common Journey. There is an extremely long list of Web resources on sustainability at the World Wide Web Virtual Library. References that specifically address planning’s contribution to sustainability are Blowers (1993) Planning for a Sustainable Environment and Breheny (1992) Sustainable Development and Urban Form; Williams et al. (2000) Achieving Sustainable Urban Form; BuckinghamHatfield and Evans (1996) Environmental Planning and Sustainability, Selman (1996) Local Sustainability; Selman (1999) Environmental Planning; IDeA (1998) Sustainability in Development Control; World Health Organisation (1997) City Planning for Health and Sustainable Development; and Kenny and Meadowcroft (1999) Planning Sustainability. For European comparisons, see Brown et al. (forthcoming) Sustainability, Development and Spatial Planning in Europe.

On urban and regional sustainability, see Elkin et al. (1991) Reviving the City: Towards Sustainable Development; Gibbs (1994) ‘Towards the sustainable city’; Haughton and Hunter (1994) Sustainable Cities; the EU Expert Group on the Urban Environment (1996) The European Sustainable Cities Report; Barton (2000) Sustainable Communities; and Ravetz (2000) City Region 2020. Local Agenda 21 Recent publications and many cases studies of Agenda 21 are available free on the LGA and IDeA web site . For international comparisons, see ICLEI’s Agenda 21 web site and the UN sustainable development web site , which also has a surprisingly useful summary of action on sustainability in the UK. For government publications, see LGA et al. (1998) Sustainable Local Communities for the 21st Century: Why and How to Prepare an Effective Local Agenda 21 Strategy; and LGA and IDeA (1998) Integrating Sustainable Development into Best Value. Other main sources include Wilkes and Peter (1995) ‘Think globally, act locally: implementing Agenda 21 in Britain’ and IDeA (1997) ‘Local Agenda 21 in the UK – The First 5 Years’. EG Magazine is a monthly publication concerned with practice on LA21 and is published by Westminster University. Environmental Politics and the Impact of the EU The subject of environmental politics is also well covered by many text books, including Fischer and Black (1995) Greening Environmental Policy: The Politics of a Sustainable Future; Lowe and Goyder (1983) Environmental Groups in Politics; Worpole (1999) Richer Futures; and Doyle and McEachern (1997) Environment and Politics. See also Newby (1990) ‘Ecology, amenity, and society’, which shows that environmental politics is not simply a modern fad. Beckerman (1995) gives an iconoclastic appraisal of ‘environmental alarmism’ in Small is Stupid: Blowing the Whistle on the Greens. On


Europe, see Vogel (1995) ‘The making of EC environmental policy’; and Shaw et al. (2000) Regional Planning and Development in Europe. Economic Instruments of Environmental Policy Cairncross (1993) Costing the Earth (chapter 4) is a good non-technical discussion and there is a more recent book by O’Riordan (1997) entitled Ecotaxation. There is a discussion of economic instruments in chapter 16 of Cullingworth (1997a) Planning in the USA, on which parts of the text are based. Air, Water and Waste There are a number of general sources for information and statistics, and of particular interest is McLaren et al. (1998) Tomorrow’s World: Britain’s Share in a Sustainable Future, which sets out the theory of ‘environmental space’ and explains how, realistically, the UK could drastically cut its use of resources. See also the DETR Digest of Environmental Statistics (published annually), the Environment Agency’s Strategy and State of the Environment Report at , and Stead and Nadin (1999) ‘Environmental resources and energy in the United Kingdom’. Air pollution policy and an explanation of trends are set out in the National Air Quality Strategy (1999) and DETR (1999) Economic Analysis of the National Air Quality Strategy Objectives. In Scotland, see SEPA (2000) Air Report and Scottish Executive (2000) Local Air Quality Management General Guidance Series. See also Elsom (1996) Smog Alert: Managing Urban Air Quality and Colls (1996) Fundamentals of Air Pollution. The environment agencies’ web sites are probably the best starting point for policy on the water environment, and a set of case study materials for higher education is in preparation and will be at . A number of official publications have arisen from both the drought and flooding crises, although they have little to say about planning. Of interest are DETR (1998) Water Resources and Supply:

Agenda for Action; DETR (2000) Water Quality in England: A Guide to Water Protection in England and Wales at ; DETR (2000) Code of Practice on Conservation Access and Recreation; and in Scotland, SEPA (2000) Improving Scotland’s Water. See also Slater et al. (1994) ‘Land use planning and the water sector’. On flooding, the relevant policy guidance notes are comprehensive and are cited in the text. They should be read in conjunction with the Select Committee Report (2000) Development Affecting the Flood Plain. On waste, both volumes of the Waste Strategy 2000 (or the Scottish Executive’s National Waste Strategy) together with PPG 10 (1999) Planning and Waste Management (or the equivalents) provide a very comprehensive source. On Scottish policies, see NPPG 10 (1996) Planning and Waste Management. For a critical review of the policy of encouraging the recycling of paper products, see Collins (1996) ‘Recycling and the environmental debate’. Noise PPG 24 (1994) deals with planning and noise. The Batho Report (noise review working party report, 1990) examined a wide range of issues concerned with noise. Later reports have dealt with particular aspects such as the Mitchell Report (1991) Railway Noise and the Insulation of Dwellings and the Building Research Establishment report The Noise Climate around Our Homes (1994). Environmental Assessment and Appraisal The principal texts on environmental impact assessment are Glasson et al. (1998) Introduction to Environmental Impact Assessment and Wood (1995) Environmental Impact Assessment: A Comparative Review, See also DoE (1993) Environmental Appraisal of Development Plans: A Good Practice Guide; Elvin and Robinson (2000) ‘Environmental impact assessment’; Jones et al. (1998) ‘Environmental assessment in the UK planning process: a review of practice’; Glasson (1999) ‘The first 10 years of the UK EIA system:




strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats’; Weston (2000) ‘Reviewing environmental statements: new demands for the UK’s EIA procedures’; and Wood (2000) ‘Ten years on: an empirical assessment of UK environmental statement submissions’. On appraisals, see Russell (2000) ‘Environmental appraisal of development plans’.


1 In a public survey in Scotland in 1995 only 12 per cent of respondents could define sustainable development and only 2 per cent could explain Agenda 21. However, most respondents (64 per cent) thought that protecting the environment is more important than economic growth; that technological development is not a solution to resource depletion; and that government intervention to improve sustainability is welcome (McCaig et al. 1995). 2 See, for example, the monumental 1995 report of the Select Committee of the House of Lords on Sustainable development for the range of definitions. 3 Interestingly, the British Government Panel on Sustainable Development, in its first report (1995), commented that the term was ‘not so much an idea as a convoy of ideas’. It is a rallying cry, a demand that environmental issues need to be taken into account; but it provides little guide to action. 4 On the other hand, there are some formidable (if not popular) economic arguments which more prosaically point to the differences between notions of sustainability, optimality, and ethical superiority. The fact that a particular path of development is unsustainable does not necessarily mean that it is undesirable or sub-optimal. In the words of Beckerman (1995: 126), ‘most definitions of sustainable development tend to incorporate some ethical injunction without apparently any recognition of the need to demonstrate why that particular ethical injunction is better than many others that one could think up’.

5 See for example Baker et al. (1997). 6 It has been argued that there is a process of ‘peripheralisation’ as locally unwanted land uses (LULUs) (in their case hazardous and polluting industries) are exported to areas beyond the main metropolitan centres to peripheral areas that have less power or will to resist them. 7 See for example, Bruff and Wood (1995), Counsell (1998), and Hales (2000) in the UK, Burke and Manta in the USA, and the findings of the EU-funded SPECTRA project, which are available at 8 Of particular note here are LGMB (1995a), Barton et al. (1995), Barton (2000), the DETR good practice guide Planning for Sustainable Development: Towards Better Practice (1998), and the DETR research report on the Millennium Villages and sustainable communities (Llewelyn-Davies 2000). See also Friends of the Earth (1994a), Ravetz (2000), Levett et al. (1999), and the Town and Country Planning Association’s Tomorrow Series of booklets on environmental planning issues including D. Hall (1999), Hooper (1999), Marsden (1999), O’Riordan (1999), and Winter (1998). See also relevant research findings on urban intensification, particularly Breheny (1992), Rudlin (1998), and K. Williams (1999). 9 The indicators were first published as Indicators of Sustainable Development for the United Kingdom but were revised for the 1999 Strategy after consultation on proposed headline indicators through the document Sustainability Counts (1998). 10 The broad definition of sustainable development taken in the UK is in distinct contrast to the approach in some other countries such as Sweden or New Zealand, where the ecological dimension is given much more prominence. In Sweden the objective of sustainability is defined in national legislation as being to protect the environment, to conserve the supply of environmental resources, and to make most efficient use of natural resources (see Seaton and Nadin 2000). 11 When faced with public protest in 2000, the government did not hesitate to withdraw from



13 14



17 18

one commitment: ‘to increase duty on petrol and diesel each year by 6 per cent above inflation to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from road transport, 1 per cent higher than the previous Government’s commitment’ (para. 5.8). Guidance on Preparing Regional Sustainable Development Frameworks (London: DETR, 2000). See also the UK Round Table on Sustainable Development report Sustainable Development Opportunities for Devolved and Regional Bodies (1999), and Building Partnerships for Prosperity: Sustainable Growth, Competitiveness and Employment in the English Regions (London: DETR, 2000). See, for example, the LGMB reports (1993a, 1993b, 1995a, 1995b). For local indicators of sustainable development see the DETR report Local Sustainability Counts, which is a handbook of twenty-nine indicators for LA21 and local community planning. Local authority Agenda 21 strategies are also a good source. The system of voluntary compliance is a striking feature of other British regulatory systems. For example, it also appears in a different guise in countryside policy, where, to quote from This Common Inheritance (1990: para. 7.3), ‘the government works in partnership with [countryside] owners and managers to protect it through voluntary effort’. Although there was her remarkable conversion to the environmental cause in 1988 when she surprised everybody by testifying her personal ‘commitment to science and the environment’. With resounding words she rallied her followers to environmentalism, declaring that Conservatives were ‘not merely friends of the earth’ but also ‘its guardians and trustees for generations to come’. The text of the speech is available at . The government has appointed ‘green ministers’ to review the environmental and sustainability impacts of sectoral policies and to establish a programme of action to deliver sustainable development through mainstream policies. The green






ministers meet in a Cabinet Committee on the Environment which is chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister. The SDC is chaired by Jonathon Porritt, covers the whole of the UK and is sponsored by the Cabinet Office. It reports to the Prime Minister, the First Ministers in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and the First Secretary in Wales. At the time of writing, background papers prepared for the Review of Environmental Planning was addressing five main themes: the extent to which planning supports environmental sustainability; the barrier effect of administrative boundaries; the extent of integration and coordination of environmental policy and action; subsidiarity and democracy in environmental policy; and assessment approaches. Background papers are available on the RCEP web site, . The EEA was established in 1993 with the objective of providing ‘a seamless information system’ on the environment for policy-makers. It does this by collecting and presenting in compatible format existing information through the European Environment Information and Observation Network (EIONET), which comprises 600 environmental bodies and agencies across Europe. Its membership includes EFTA countries as well as EU ones. A major achievement was the preparation of the Dobris Assessment of Europe’s Environment (1995) and the Second Assessment (1998), which cover forty-six countries and are the principal sources for state of the environment information in Europe. The EEA web site is . Further details are available at . For an explanation of the creation of the Agencies, see HC Environment Committee (1992) The Government’s Proposals for an Environment Agency, which points to the important comments made by the Advisory Committee on Business and the Environment and the Institute of Directors. The Environment Committee argued that the Agency









should have more functions than it was actually given by the government. The TCPA went further and argued the need for integration between environmental planning and land use planning, a point now taken up in the review of environmental planning by the RCEP. These quotations are taken from the draft Environmental Vision of the Environment Agency for England and Wales (2000: 38–9). A similar (though only five-year) Vision document, State of the Environment Report, was published by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency in 1996. ALARA should also be mentioned – the principle of ‘as low as reasonably achievable’, which applies in the regulation of emissions from radioactive sources. In fact IPC was first recommended by the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution but ‘was largely ignored by government until 1987’ (Miller 2000). The EU has been partly responsible for the creation of a more integrated pollution control regime. From 1997 to 1999 the Environment Agency successfully prosecuted 1,700 people for pollution offences resulting (among other penalties) in fifteen prison sentences and a £4 million fine in the case of the Sea Empress (reduced to £750,000 on appeal) (Environment Agency; Creating and Environmental Vision, 2000). The Advisory Committee on Business and the Environment reports annually (to the president of the Board of Trade and the Secretary of State for the Environment) on economic instruments. Its recent reports have dealt with tradeable permits for water pollution, the landfill tax, and the promotion of alternative fuels. The Government Panel on Sustainable Development’s First Annual Report (1995) considered economic instruments, and all subsequent annual reports have noted progress. Proposals for alternative fuels, as well as various economic instruments, were discussed by the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution in its reports Transport and the Environment and Energy. The Round Table on Sustainable





Development has recently reported on the use of Economic Instruments (2000). For example in Economic Instruments and the Business Use of Energy (1998), Economic Instruments for Water Pollution (1997), and Economic Instruments in Relation to Water Abstraction (2000). For a summary of the main air pollutants and recent trends, see Stead and Nadin (2000), the UK National Air Quality Strategy, and the DETR Digest of Environmental Statistics (published annually). The main air pollutants are carbon dioxide (CO2), a ‘global pollutant’ thought to be mainly though not solely responsible for global warming; sulphur dioxide (SO2), which contributes to acidification of soil and water; nitrogen oxides (NOX), which also contribute to acid deposition and with other pollutants give rise to smog and poor air quality; ozone, which is created in the atmosphere by chemical reactions involving sunlight, NOX, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and has impacts on the health of the lungs; particles or particulates (PM10) of many types, which contribute to respiratory and cardiovascular health problems; carbon monoxide (CO); benzene and 1,3-butadiene, which are human carcinogens, the former associated particularly with leukaemia; and lead, which has many negative health effects. Proposed EU Directives will also introduce dioxins into this list. At the end of 2000 the monitoring network comprised eighty-four urban, twenty rural and thirteen specialised hydrocarbon stations, with more related and non-automated sites, which together makes up the most sophisticated monitoring system of any EU state. Considerable information is available via the Internet: . Monitoring of the production of air quality management plans is under way at the Centre for Air Quality Management at the University of the West of England. It was estimated that by the end of 2000 only three local authorities would have designated areas, although forty more are near completion and 94 per cent of the fortythree local authorities (not including Northern








Ireland) would have begun the process of designation. The environment agencies also have certain powers to prevent flooding, as well as responsibilities for the licensing of salmon and freshwater fisheries, for navigation, and for conservancy and harbour authority functions. The blue diamond is awarded to beaches where between May and September seawater contains less than 10,000 coliforms (tiny living organisms) per 100 ml. A green circle is awarded where quality is moderate and a red square where it fails the test. Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Second Report 2000: Development Affecting the Flood Plain, para. 1. Draft PPG 25 (see note 37) suggests that the 1-in-100 year high-water level on the east coast may be exceeded every twenty years on average by 2050, and that rainfall will increase by 0–10 per cent by 2050. These changes add up to increases in peak flow of up to 20 per cent in the Thames and Severn catchments within fifty years, although the uncertainty of forecasting is acknowledged. In England planning guidance is to be found in the joint DoE and MAFF Circular 30/92 Development and Flood Risk. In Wales this has been superseded by Technical Advice Note 15: Development and Flood Risk (1998). Scotland has taken the lead in providing a planning policy guidance note on the subject: NPPG 7, Planning and Flooding (1995), while a new PPG 25 is imminent in England following consultation on the draft: Development and Flood Risk (2000). The planning policy guidance notes are particularly useful, with explanations of the causes of flooding and bibliographies of research and other guidance. The definition of waste gives rise to problems of a byzantine character: the lengthy DoE Circular 11/94 explains all. The legal definitions in the UK now follow that in the EU Waste Framework Directive, which describes waste as ‘any substance or object [.] which the holder discards or intends or is required to discard’. Sixteen categories are

listed and summarised in Annexe B to the Waste Strategy 2000 for England and Wales. An alternative definition by Mary Douglas is ‘waste is matter in the wrong place’ (quoted in Worpole 1999: 24). Worpole goes on to say that ‘a newspaper on the café table is a highly esteemed cultural artifact; blowing around the street an hour later, it becomes a threat to our very sense of meaning and belonging. Ten newspapers scattered on the pavement and there goes our neighbourhood.’ 39 In Scotland there is a parallel NPPG 10: Planning and Waste Management (1996); and in Wales a Technical Advice Note: Planning Pollution Control and Waste Management (which is due to be revised). See also Re-inventing Waste: Towards a London Waste Strategy (London: LPAC, 1998), The Landfill Campaign Guide (London: Friends of the Earth, 1997), and the Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs report Sustainable Waste Management (1998). Park (2000) has found that the landfill tax is being implemented but that little funding is finding its way to local clean-up projects as intended. 40 The map of tranquil areas of England (1995) was produced in cooperation with the Countryside Agency and is available at . 41 Environmental assessment was introduced by the 1985 EC Directive on the Assessment and Effects of Certain Public and Private Projects on the Environment (85/337). The Directive was amended in 1997 by the Amending Directive (97/11). The amendment extended the range of projects that are subject to EIA and made other requirements in relation to the need for the planning authority to tell the developer what should be included in the EIA (scoping), the provision of information on alternative options, and other procedural matters. The Directives are implemented through regulations in the UK – for England and Wales the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations 1999 SI no. 293, and in Scotland by the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations 1999 SSI no. 1, which




are explained in Scottish Executive Development Department’s PAN 58 and Circular 15/1999. 42 An amended text was formally adopted in March 2000, and at the time of writing adoption of the final directive was imminent. It is available at . Member states will need to implement the Directive within three years. 43 Plan and programmes covered include those prepared for ‘agriculture, forestry, fisheries, energy, industry, transport, waste management, water management, telecommunications, tourism, town and country planning or land use and which set a framework for future development consent of projects’ and which fall under the Environmental

Assessment and Habitats Directives. Plans and programmes dealing only with finance and budgets, or serving national defence, or which determine the use of small areas at the local level and minor modifications, will be exempt, unless the member state determines that they are likely to have significant environmental effects. Plans and programmes for the Structural Funds are also exempt, although there are other provisions in their regulations which require that environmental considerations are taken into account. 44 The DETR has published Guidance for the Sustainability Appraisal of Regional Planning Guidance (2000).

8 H E R I TA G E P L A N N I N G

It is time to build a new future from England’s past. Conservation is not backward looking. It offers sustainable solutions to the social and economic problems afflicting our towns and cities. It stands in the vanguard of social and economic policy, capable of reversing decades of decay by injecting new life into familiar areas. (Conservation-led Regeneration: The Work of English Heritage, 1998)


Britain has a remarkable wealth of historic buildings, but changing economic and social conditions often turn this legacy into a liability. The cost of maintenance, the financial attractions of redevelopment, the need for urban renewal, the roads programme, and similar factors often threaten buildings which are of architectural or historic interest. The first state action came in 1882 with the Ancient Monuments Act, but this was important chiefly because it acknowledged the interest of the state in the preservation of ancient monuments. Such preservation as was achieved under this Act (and similar Acts passed in the following thirty years) resulted from the goodwill and cooperation of private owners. A major landmark in the evolution of policy in this area was the establishment, in 1908, of the three Royal Commissions on the Historical Monuments (of England, Scotland, and Wales). They had (and still have) the same purpose, exemplified by the original terms of reference of the English Commission: to make an inventory of the Ancient and Historical Monuments and constructions connected with or illustrative of the contemporary culture, civilisation and conditions of life of the people of England, from the

earliest times to the year 1700 and to specify those that seem most worthy of preservation.

The quotation is instructive: the emphasis is on preservation and on ‘ancient’. There was no concern for anything built after 1700 – a prejudice which Ross (1996: 14) notes was typical of the time. Slowly changing attitudes were reflected in 1921 when the year 1714 was substituted for 1700! The date was advanced to 1850 after the end of the Second World War, and in 1963 an end-date was abolished. The Commissions were established to record monuments, not to safeguard them. It was not until 1913 that general powers were provided to enable local authorities or the Commissioners of Works to purchase an ancient monument or (a surprising innovation in an era of sacrosanct property rights) to assume ‘guardianship’ of a monument, thereby preventing destruction or damage while leaving ‘ownership’ in private hands. Major legislative changes were made in the 1940s, though in practice the most important innovation was the establishment of a national survey of historic buildings. This was a huge job (quite beyond the capabilities of the slow-moving Royal Commissions). It was undertaken, county by county, by so-called ‘investigators’, and by 1969 gave statutory protection



to almost 120,000 buildings, and non-statutory recognition (but not protection) to a further 137,000 buildings.1 Statutory protection, however, is not sufficient by itself: the owners of historic buildings often need financial assistance if the cost of maintaining old structures is to be met.2 Grants were introduced in 1953 for preserving houses which were inhabited or ‘capable of occupation’. Further big changes were made in 1983, and later most of the provisions relating to heritage properties were consolidated in England and Wales in the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.3


In considering the role of this regulatory system, it is important to appreciate what is meant by the term ‘conservation’. Though it is often used synonymously with ‘preservation’, there is an important difference. Preservation implies maintaining the original in an unchanged state, but conservation embraces elements of change and even enhancement. To provide an economic base for the conservation of an old building, new uses often have to be sought. It is quite impossible to conserve all buildings in their original state irrespective of cost, and there frequently has to be a compromise between ‘the value of the old and the needs of the new’ (Ross 1991: 92). Thus ‘new uses for old buildings’ is a major factor in conservation, and it necessarily implies a degree of change, even if this is restricted to the interior.4 Again, for conservation purposes it may be necessary to enhance a site to cater for public enjoyment. The difference is more than one of name. ‘Heritage’ is the fashionable term, although its use is not always welcomed.5 Heritage takes the conservation idea further and embraces consideration of the use of what is conserved. It includes ‘the process of evaluation, selection and interpretation – perhaps even exploitation – of things of the past’ (Larkham 1999a: 105). For some, heritage presents historical buildings and places as commodities to be traded, packaged,

and marketed. And much of the UK is now neatly packaged into heritage products, carefully denoted by the brown signs marking entrances to ‘Shakespeare’s County’, Brontë Country, ‘Lawrence Country’, and many more. On the positive side, the notion of heritage draws attention to the economic potential of conservation, but it has been argued that the commodification process pays much less attention to authenticity and accuracy. Use of the term, and indeed action on conservation, was given a boost by European Architectural Heritage Year in 1974 and since then has been used widely, although government policy documents have stuck to the more appropriate ‘historic environment’.6 Delafons (1997: 168–71) reviews current conservation policy in England (as set out in PPG 15) in view of conservation doctrine built up since the nineteenth century, and in comparison with its predecessor, Circular 8/87. Despite views to the contrary, the presumption in favour of preservation remains in place but a more realistic and flexible approach is given to alternative uses for historic buildings. Even though the PPG was prepared during the time of deregulation and emphasis on economic development, the emphasis of PPG 15 is tipped heavily in the direction of conservation – so much so that it tends to downgrade the potential of well-designed replacement buildings. It says that claims about their architectural merits cannot justify the demolition of any listed building.7 Since the PPG (and in a different political context), English Heritage and the other agencies have put more emphasis on the regeneration potential of conservation and the concept of ‘conservation for everyone’. However, it will take some time for conservation to rid itself of the well-deserved criticism of elitism, if indeed it can. The whole ethos of conservation policy in the UK has been about selection. The latest development in terminology (if not necessarily in action) is the idea of ‘sustainable conservation’ or, to put it more accurately, conservation for sustainability. It has been argued that the concepts are two sides of the same coin. The historic environment is a finite resource that should not be depleted. Conservation encourages the recycling of existing buildings and materials, the use of local resources, and


diversity in the environment. It can be argued that the historic city in many ways is a model for a sustainable city (Manley and Guise 1998: 86). But there is still much to be debated on the relationship between sustainability and conservation, not least in the widening gap between the quality of ‘sheltered’ historic areas and the rest of the public realm.


There has been much reorganisation of responsibilities for managing the historic environment in the UK over recent years. In England, responsibility for heritage was transferred from the Department of the Environment to the newly created Department of National Heritage, which in 1997 became the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. The newly devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have taken on responsibility for heritage matters; and executive agencies have been created to manage the heritage – English Heritage, Historic Scotland, Cadw (Welsh Historic Monuments) in Wales, and the Environment and Heritage Service in Northern Ireland.8 Major institutional change is often a politically adept technique of seeming to be doing something substantive while only giving the appearance of so doing. In this case, however, the institutional change has been part of a new commitment to preserving and enhancing the historic legacy. This has been greatly facilitated by the advent of funds from the National Lottery as discussed below. Many governmental and voluntary organisations play a role in heritage planning and the main ones are shown in Table 8.1. The executive agencies manage most government funding for the heritage (except lottery funding), maintain historic buildings and sites in government ownership, and advise government on heritage matters, including planning decisions. The Royal Commissions survey and compile the historic monuments records (in England the Royal Commission has been merged with English Heritage). The historic buildings councils advise government in heritage matters, notably regarding the listing of

buildings. The advisory body, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), has a wide remit ‘to inject architecture into the bloodstream of the nation’ (England), and in this role will often advise about the impact of new development on the heritage. This is a field in which voluntary organisations have been particularly active. The first of these dates back to 1877 when William Morris (horrified at the proposed ‘restoration’ of Tewkesbury Abbey) inspired the founding of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (Ross 1996). Many others have followed; the National Trust with 2.5 million members is the largest. Others with more specialist concerns include the Georgian Group, the Victorian Society, and the Twentieth Century Society.9 Other organisations have a wider remit: the Civic Trust champions improvement in all places where people work but supports heritage conservation and interpretation through, for example, heritage open days, when buildings normally closed are opened for visitors. The main organisation for planners (both officers and members) is the English Historic Towns Forum, formed in 1987, and there is also a Conservation Officers’ Society.


One indicator of the increase in the public popularity of archaeology is the number of television programmes now devoted to the subject. Planning policy has contributed to this through changes over the past fifteen years that have strengthened protection and provided funding from developers for archaeological works. Rescue archaeology has been widely publicised through such finds as the streets from Saxon Lundenwic at the Covent Garden Opera House site; the Dover Boat – ‘the Bronze Age cross-channel ferry’ unearthed during road works in Dover; and the Roman Lady burial at Spitalfields in London. Planning provisions have provided an opportunity for investigation, recording, and removal of these archaeological remains prior to proposed development. But planning has also reduced such situations by recording remains and anticipating problems in local plans.


(Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England was merged with English Heritage in 2000) Historic royal palaces

National Heritage Fund and Heritage Lottery Fund (with separate committees in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and the English regions.

Royal commissions


Other funding bodies

Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland

Historic Buildings Council Historic Buildings Council for Northern Ireland; for Scotland Historic Monuments Council for Northern Ireland

Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales

Historic Buildings Council for Wales

Cadw (Welsh Historic Monuments)

Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment

Historic Scotland

Other advisory bodies

Environment and Heritage Service

Welsh Assembly

English Heritage; Royal Parks Agency

Scottish Executive


Executive agencies

Northern Ireland Executive


Department of Culture, Media and Sport

Northern Ireland

Government department


Table 8.1 Government Departments, Agencies, and Advisory Bodies for Heritage in the UK


PPG 16 Archaeology and Planning, and similar policy statements outside England,10 make it clear that there is a presumption in favour of the preservation of important remains, whether or not they are scheduled. There is thus a measure of protection over the large number of unscheduled sites that are on the lists maintained by county archaeological officers. (These are known as SMRs: county sites and monuments records.) Such sites are a ‘material consideration’ in dealing with planning applications. Planning authorities make provision in their development plans for the protection of archaeological interests, often with good cooperation from large developers. What is perhaps surprising is the extent to which some developers are prepared to go to assist rescue archaeology, and even to fund it. Funding from developers for archaeological work is now four times that available from other sources. Such funding is generally welcomed, but there are criticisms that this gives the developer rather than the archaeologists control over the work. Also, developers do not have to pay for the production or dissemination of reports. Much archive material is being produced but is not widely available. A useful mechanism for liaison is provided by the Code of Practice of the British Archaeologists and Developers Liaison Group.11 However, rescue archaeology is, at best, of limited benefit: it is certainly far inferior to preservation in situ. The cost of this can be enormous and, given the incredible range of archaeological remains in Britain, some selection is inevitable. The Secretary of State can also designate areas of archaeological importance. In these areas, developers are required to give six weeks’ notice (an operations notice) of any works affecting the area, and the ‘investigating authority’ (e.g. the local authority or a university) can hold up operations for a total period of up to six months. The powers have been used very sparingly, and only five areas have been designated, comprising the historic centres of Canterbury, Chester, Exeter, Hereford, and York. A 1996 consultation paper Protecting Our Heritage argued that the powers are now redundant, but this recommendation (like all the others in the report) has not yet been acted upon (but see the discussion on the heritage review, below).


The term ‘ancient monument’ is defined very widely: it is ‘any scheduled monument’ and ‘any other monument which in the opinion of the Secretary of State is of public interest by reason of the historic, architectural, traditional, artistic or archaeological interest attaching to it’. This is so broad a definition that it could include almost any building, structure, or site of archaeological interest made or occupied by humans at any time. It includes, for instance, a preserved Second World War airfield complex at East Fortune (near Haddington, in Lothian). The legislation requires the Secretary of State to prepare a schedule of monuments ‘of national importance’, which are then given special protection through the planning system. This ‘scheduling’ is a selective and continuing process. It has been under way for over a century and, for many years, proceeded at a very slow rate.12 The pace of recording monuments has quickened over recent years following initiatives by the Royal Commissions but it will still be many years before the schedule could be described as near completion. At the end of 1999 there were 33,900 scheduled sites in the UK (see Table 8.2). Estimates of the total number of archaeological sites in Britain vary but it is in the region of one million. Since there are such a huge number of known archaeological sites and monuments, it is not surprising that estimates differ.13 The number is in decline, with one estimate suggesting that one site has been lost every day since 1945 (Bryant 1999). During 1998 and 1999 a Monuments at Risk Survey (MARS) revealed that at least 70,000 monuments are at risk, the main culprit being damage by ploughing.14 In England the aim is to review 70–80 per cent of the total by 2003. In Scotland it is considered that the most outstanding monuments have been scheduled; there are over 10,000 other monuments that might be scheduled but have yet to be assessed. At the current rate of progress (according to the 1995 NAO report Protecting and Presenting Scotland’s Heritage Properties) the schedule will not be complete for at least a further twenty-five years. It is recognised that the present schedule is not only very incomplete, but also an inadequate and



TOWN AND COUNTRY PLANNING IN THE UK Table 8.2 Numbers of Listed Buildings, Scheduled Monuments, Conservation Areas, and World Heritage Sites in the UK, 1999 Listed buildings

Scheduled monuments (in care)

Conservation areas

World heritage sites

Historic parks and gardens
































Northern Ireland Total UK

Note: There are also three world heritage sites in overseas dependent territories. The nature of ‘historic parks and gardens’ varies.

unrepresentative sample of the archaeological heritage. In PPG 16 the DETR advises that ‘where nationally important archaeological remains, whether scheduled or not, and their settings, are affected by proposed development there should be a presumption in favour of their physical preservation’. The Acts also provide further protection from damage by users of metal detectors, although they also require monuments to be open to the public. The fact that a monument is scheduled does not mean that it will automatically be preserved under all circumstances. It simply ensures that full consideration is given to the case for preservation if any proposal is made which will affect it. The need to preserve is a material consideration in development control and whether a monument is scheduled or not, and planning authorities may seek Article 4 directions to remove permitted development rights. Any works have to be approved by the Secretary of State (who receives advice from the agencies, commissions, and other advisory bodies). Such approval is known as scheduled monument consent. Where consent is refused, compensation is payable (under certain limited circumstances) if the owner thereby suffers loss.15 In practice, the great majority of applications for consent are approved, often with conditions attached. The issue here is seen as one of balancing the need to protect the heritage with the rights and responsibilities of farmers, developers, statutory undertakers, and other landowners. The legislation also

empowers the Secretary of State to acquire (if necessary by compulsion) an ancient monument ‘for the purpose of securing its preservation’ – a power which applies to any ancient monument, not solely those which have been scheduled. Though most heritage properties remain in private ownership, a small number are managed by the Heritage Departments – officially known as being ‘in care’. These are generally of important historical, archaeological, and architectural significance. A very high proportion are of great antiquity, including prehistoric field monuments such as Maiden Castle; prehistoric structures such as Stonehenge; Roman monuments such as Wroxeter and parts of Hadrian’s Wall; and a large number of medieval buildings.16


Under planning legislation, and quite separate from the provisions relating to monuments, the central departments maintain lists of buildings of special architectural or historic interest.17 The preparation of these lists has been a mammoth task which has progressed slowly because of inadequate funding and (the underlying factor) a lack of public interest. Although the national listing survey is now substantially complete, listing is a continuing process, not only for additional buildings but also for updating information on existing listed buildings, particularly


in terms of their condition. Existing listed buildings can be up- or downgraded. In addition, individual buildings can be spot-listed. This arises because of individual requests, often precipitated by the threat of alteration or demolition. The majority of these requests are made by local authorities (ideally well in advance of development proposals being submitted for planning permission) so that ‘any application for listed building consent can be considered in tandem with the planning application for the new development’ (Ross 1996: 81). At one time, listing often came as a surprise to owners who were not aware that their property was under consideration for listing. Since 1995 the departments have consulted on listing, though there is still no duty to consult anyone (including owners) and no right of appeal. Listing has been described as ‘a fearful prospect’ for owners of younger commercial and industrial properties because of the costs and delays in making changes to what are often obsolete and inefficient buildings (Derbyshire et al. 1999). The costs of retaining the building or any financial consequences are not considered in the listing process. An owner can apply for a certificate of immunity from listing which lasts for five years, but this may simply raise government’s awareness of the need to list. There are two objectives in listing. First, it is intended to provide guidance to local planning authorities in carrying out their planning functions. For example, in planning for redevelopment, local authorities will take into account listed buildings in the area. Second, and more directly effective, when a building is listed, no demolition or alteration that would materially alter it can be undertaken by the owner without the approval of the local authority.18 This is listed building consent and is separate to planning permission, but there is no fee. There have been numerous celebrated cases where people have been caught out because it was not recognised that the works require listed building consent. This arises because it is not ‘development’ (as defined for planning permission) that is controlled, but any works to a listed building that affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest. Thus painting a building (or even a door) may need consent if it affects archi-

tectural or historic character. Furthermore, the definition of what is listed is very wide and includes certain fixtures and fittings.19 The procedure for obtaining listed building consent is summarised in Figure 8.2. Applications have to be advertised, and any representation must be taken into account by the local authority before it reaches its decision. Where demolition is involved, English local authorities have to notify English Heritage, the appropriate local amenity society, and a number of other bodies.20 If, after all this, the local authority intends to grant consent for the demolition (or, in certain cases, the alteration) of a listed building, it has to refer the application to the DETR so that it can be considered for ‘call-in’ and decision by the Secretary of State. English Heritage advises on this, and in most cases the DETR accept its advice. It is the Department’s policy that consent applications should generally be decided by local authorities, and only a very small number are referred. Conditions can be imposed on a listed building consent in the same way as is done with planning permissions. The type of conditions that can be imposed are set out in DoE Circular 8/87 and include the preservation of particular features, the making good of damage caused by works of alteration, and the granting of access (before work commences) to a named body to enable a photographic record or measured drawings to be made. All these provisions apply to listed buildings, but local authorities can serve a building preservation notice on an unlisted building. This has the effect of protecting the building for six months, thus giving time for the DETR to consider (on the advice of English Heritage) whether or not it should be listed. As mentioned above, owners and developers who wish to be assured that they will not be unexpectedly made subject to listing can apply to the LPA for a certificate of immunity from listing. With a listed building, the presumption is in favour of preservation. It is an offence to demolish or to alter a listed building unless listed building consent has been obtained. This is different from the general position in relation to planning permission, where an offence arises only after the enforcement procedure has




been invoked. Fines for illegal works to listed buildings are related to the financial benefit expected by the offender. The legislation also provides a deterrent against deliberate neglect of historic buildings. This was one way in which astute owners could circumvent the earlier statutory provisions: a building could be neglected to such an extent that demolition was unavoidable, thus giving the owner the possibility of reaping the development value of the site. In such cases the local authority can now compulsorily acquire the building at a restricted price, technically known as minimum compensation. If the Secretary of State approves, the compensation is assessed on the assumption that neither planning permission nor listed building consent would be given for any works to the building except those for restoring it to, and maintaining it in, a proper state of repair; in short, all development value is excluded. The strength of these powers (and others not detailed here) reflects the concern which is felt at the loss of historic buildings. However, they are not all of this penal nature. Indeed, ministerial guidance has emphasised the need for a positive and comprehensive approach. Grants are available towards the cost of repair and maintenance. Furthermore, an owner of a building who is refused listed building consent can, in certain circumstances, serve a notice on the local authority requiring it to purchase the property. This is known as a listed building purchase notice. The issue to be decided here is whether the land has become ‘incapable of reasonably beneficial use’. It is not sufficient to show that it is of less use to the owner in its present state than if developed. Local authorities can also purchase properties by agreement, possibly with Exchequer aid. Exceptionally, a neglected building can be compulsorily acquired. There is only one case of this: the St Ann’s Hotel building in Buxton, which is part of a late eighteenth-century crescent. It had had a long history of neglect which continued through various ownerships. After all alternatives had been exhausted, the Secretary of State served a compulsory purchase order in 1993. In spite of all these (and other) provisions, many listed buildings are at risk. In Scotland (according to

the 1995 National Audit Office report Protecting and Presenting Scotland’s Heritage Properties) the ongoing Buildings at Risk Register contained, in 1994, 860 listed properties which were unoccupied or derelict and which had a dubious future (over 2 per cent of the total). The position is relatively worse in England: an English Heritage report showed that 36,700 listed buildings (7 per cent of the total) are at risk from neglect; twice as many are in a vulnerable condition and need repair if they are not to fall into the ‘at risk’ category. Of course, most listed buildings are in private ownership, and the owners may well not feel the respect for their buildings which preservationists do; or they simply may be unable to afford to maintain them adequately. Advice, grants, and default measures cannot achieve all that might be hoped and, though a precious building can be taken into public ownership, this is essentially a matter of last resort. Sharland (2000) has put the case for more careful scrutiny of how preservation can be put into effect so that we list buildings that can be preserved, with a statutory duty on owners to keep those that are listed in good repair.


Criteria for listing historic buildings are divided into four groups according to the date of building: Before 1700 All buildings which survive in anything like their original condition are listed. 1700–1840 Most buildings are listed, though selection is necessary. 1840–1914 Only buildings of definite quality and character are listed and the selection is designed to include the best works of the principal architects. Post-1914 Selected buildings of high quality are listed. In Scotland, the grouping is: prior to 1840; 1840–1914; 1914–45; and post-1945.


Figure 8.1 The Procedure for Listed Building Consent in England





1000 old red telephone boxes 123 cinemas The Essex County Cricket Club pavilion City Hall, Cardiff Jodrell Bank Radio Telescope Alexandra Palace, London 12,000 churches A petrol pump at Oxton, Nottinghamshire Ribblehead Viaduct, North Yorkshire

versa?21 Many buildings have been demolished which would today attract vociferous defence. On the other hand, some more recent architecture would have difficulty in finding a place in the hearts of those who support the protection of good interwar buildings. Clearly, this is an area where attitudes differ and firm guidelines are far from easy to determine – as is also the case with contemporary design and amenity guidelines. Matters were suddenly accelerated when Sir Albert Richardson’s Bracken House in the City of London was threatened with demolition. The Secretary of State decided to list this grade II*, thus copying the Scottish principle that buildings under thirty years old could be listed. At the same time, going one better than the Scots, it was decided that outstanding buildings that were only ten years old could be listed if there was an immediate threat to them.

Coventry Cathedral Carrickfergus Castle, Co. Antrim The Rotunda, Birmingham

In choosing buildings, particular attention is paid to ‘special value within certain types, either for architectural or planning reasons or as illustrating social and economic history’; to technological innovation or virtuosity (for instance, cast-iron prefabrication or the early use of concrete); to any association with wellknown characters or events; and to ‘group value’, especially as examples of town planning such as squares, terraces, or model villages (DoE Circular 8/87). Buildings are graded according to their relative importance. The grading systems are set out in Table 8.2. Scotland has for long had a rolling thirty-year rule under which any building of that age could be considered for listing. This was initially thought to be too problematic in relation to the much larger number of buildings that would be covered by such a rule in England. How was the quality of buildings to be assessed over such a short time period? Would apparent ‘successes’ soon be seen as ‘failures’ – and vice


Theoretically, anyone can propose that a building be listed, but in practice, buildings have usually been proposed by the Commissions and decided by the central departments. There was no advance publicity in this system. It was therefore a surprise when the Secretary of State in England announced that the system was to be opened up, not only for proposals from the public, but also for comments on proposals for listing. In 1995, following an earlier initiative, the public were invited to comment on proposals from English Heritage for the listing of forty modern buildings and thirty-seven textile mills in the Manchester area. Among the former were the Centre Point office block in central London, Millbank Tower, the John Lewis warehouse at Stevenage, and the signal box at Birmingham New Street station. There was concern that such a highly publicised process of listing might incite owners to demolish their earmarked buildings at speed (as happened to the Firestone building. Spot-listing is one answer to this (if it is done quickly enough), or the imposition of a building preservation order (though this renders the local authority liable to compensation if the building

HERITAGE PLANNING Table 8.3 Listed Building Categories in the UK England and Wales

Northern Ireland






Category Criteria


Buildings of outstanding or exceptional interest


Of national importance


Buildings of national or international importance, either architectural or historic, or fine and littlealtered examples of some particular period, style or building type


Particularly important buildings of more than special interest but not in the outstanding class


Of national importance B but with minor detracting features or of national importance with some exceptional features

Buildings of regional or more than local importance, or major examples of some period, style, or building type which may have been somewhat altered


Of national or local importance, or good examples of some period or style.


Buildings of special interest which warrant every effort being made to preserve them


Of positive architectural C(S) interest or historic interest but are not ‘special’ and including those that contribute to the value of groups of buildings

is not in fact eventually listed). A better solution would be a new power for an instant listing which carried no compensation penalties for the local authority.22 As these examples show, public opinion (when aroused) can play an important part in this planning field. The same is true with listed buildings under threat, as is well exemplified by the successful campaign to save St Pancras Station in London. There is a wide degree of public support for conservation, which has been heightened by the increased concern

Buildings of local importance; lesser examples of any period, style, or building type, whether as originally constructed or as the result of subsequent alteration; simple, well-proportioned traditional buildings often forming part of a group

for environmental issues (Lane and Vaughan 1992). Some questions remain, however, and they are likely to come to the fore as local planning authorities continue to develop their competences in the area. One question is the justification for the existence of two regimes: one for the listing of historic buildings and the other for the scheduling of ancient monuments and archaeological remains. Other questions relate to the division of responsibilities between planning authorities and central government and, in particular,




the degree of the integration between heritage planning and the other functions of local planning authorities (Redman 1990; Scrase 1991). Some of these issues have been taken up in ‘the heritage review’ described below.


A major barrier to the conservation of some listed buildings is finding a contemporary use for them that is compatible with the character which it is desired to preserve. Research shows that listed office buildings have a ‘market performance’ which is generally as good as that of other buildings, and sometimes better. On the other hand, listing can reduce market value, particularly of small buildings in areas of high development outside conservation areas. However, the reduction is a one-time cost which is borne by the owner at the time of listing: future ‘market performance’ is not affected. But listing can also increase values because of the ‘prestige’ thereby accorded; and this can also raise neighbouring values. As with all such issues, much depends on local factors (Scanlon et al. 1994). In deciding whether or not to list a building, the Secretary of State is required to have regard only to the special architectural or historic interest. No account can be taken of economic issues (such as the condition of the building and the cost of conserving it, or the possibilities of finding a viable use for the building). Nor can the personal circumstances of the owner be considered. (Such issues become relevant only when an application is made for listed building consent to demolish or alter a listed building.)23 In view of the renewed accent on urban policy and the work of the Urban Task Force, English Heritage has strongly promoted the regeneration potential of conservation. The epigraph at the head of this chapter gives a very positive message about the economic value of conservation, which is justified in the 1998 English Heritage report Conservation-Led Regeneration, which includes numerous successful and inspiring urban

regeneration schemes across the country. Major projects such as the Albert Dock, Liverpool; Saltaire, West Yorkshire; and Dean Clough Mills, Halifax, are well known, but there are very many smaller schemes that are equally impressive.24 Looking at this issue the other way around, development and regeneration can often enable restoration and conservation of the historic environment. But ‘enabling development’ often calls for considerable adaptation of historical assets. English Heritage defines enabling development as that ‘which, whilst it would achieve significant benefit to a heritage asset, would normally be rejected as clearly contrary to other objectives’. The argument is that the benefits of safeguarding the heritage asset – a country house, for instance – offset the negative impact (and detriment to the asset itself) of, say, new housing development within the grounds of the house.25 The development makes up the ‘conservation deficit’: the difference between the cost of repair and renovation to bring it into viable use and the resulting value of the property on the market. While English Heritage agrees that enabling development can be a useful planning tool, it has concluded that too often schemes ‘destroy more than they save’. Therefore in 1999 English Heritage adopted a presumption against enabling development unless it meets strict criteria, including the requirements that the development must not detract from the heritage asset or its setting, and that it should be demonstrated that it is the minimum necessary to secure benefits for the asset. In circumstances where ‘enabling’ is resisted, and thus private investment deterred, the only answer is subsidy from public or charitable sources. English Heritage has begun to target grant assistance on more deprived areas, and where investment in existing buildings will contribute to economic and social regeneration. Other funding bodies (described below) are doing the same. Nevertheless, there are still questions about the extent to which the government’s urban renaissance policy has taken conservation fully on board. Conservation has not been given a prominent position in the Urban Task Force report, or funding priorities (see Chapter 10).


Of particular importance in heritage planning is the emphasis on areas, as distinct from individual buildings, of architectural or historic interest. Statutory recognition of the area concept was introduced by the Civic Amenities Act 1967.26 Local planning authorities have a duty ‘to determine which parts of their area are areas of special architectural or historic interest, the character of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance’, and to designate such areas as conservation areas. When a conservation area has been designated, special attention has to be paid in all planning decisions to the preservation or enhancement of its character and appearance. Demolition of all buildings (unlisted as well as listed) is controlled.27 There are also special provisions for preserving trees. But owners of unlisted buildings have ‘permitted development rights’: they are not subject to the restrictions applied to owners of listed buildings. However, LPAs can withdraw these permitted development rights by use of an Article 4 direction (discussed in Chapter 5). Indeed, this is the common use of such directions (Roger Tym & Partners 1995a). They are typically intended to prevent piecemeal erosion of the character of an area through the cumulative effects of numerous small changes. Local planning authorities also have a duty to seek ‘the preservation and enhancement’ of conservation areas. Though some authorities take this duty seriously, it is generally poorly implemented, often on the grounds of inadequate resources. The statutory provisions relating to the establishment of conservation areas are remarkably loose: there is no formal designation procedure, there is no requirement for a formal public inquiry (though proposals have to be put before a public meeting), and there is no specification of what qualifies for conservation area status. Circular 8/87 notes that ‘these areas will naturally be of many different kinds’: They may be large or small, from whole town areas to squares, terraces and smaller groups of buildings. They will often be centred on listed buildings, but not always. Pleasant groups of other buildings, open spaces, trees, and historic street patterns, a village green or features of historic or archaeological interest may also contribute to

the special character of an area. Areas appropriate for designation as conservation areas will be found in almost every town and many villages. It is the character of areas, rather than individual buildings, that [section 60 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990] seeks to preserve or enhance.

Larkham (1999a:113) points out that in practice the scope of designations has widened over recent years and there is also a trend to designating much larger areas.28 The 1996 English Heritage consultation paper proposed that designations should ‘include a statement identifying the specific features of the area that it is considered desirable to preserve or enhance’. In 2000 a similar call was made for better assessment of the qualities of conservation areas, both existing and proposed. The number of conservation areas has grown dramatically, and by the end of 1999 there were more than 9,000 in the UK (Table 8.2).29 Over a million buildings are in these areas. Indeed, it was suggested some time ago that perhaps a ‘saturation point’ had been reached in that the resources are simply not available for ‘enhancing’ such a large number of areas (Morton 1991; Suddards and Morton 1991). There continues to be a widespread view that more attention should be given to managing existing conservation areas and less to designating additional ones (Larkham and Jones 1993), but there has been little government action on this so far. Townshend and Pendlebury (1999) point to the continuing poor performance of professionals in involving residents in designation and management of conservation areas. Though an expert-led approach may be required for conservation areas of national significance, it may be that a more community-led approach, facilitated by the expert, is more appropriate in many thousands of conservation areas. This leads to the tentative suggestion that there may be a need for a grading scheme for conservation areas, in a similar way to listed buildings, so as to allow for different forms of control. English Heritage has targeted its resources in conservation on priority areas through town schemes and conservation area partnerships, where it jointly funded works with planning authorities, and others. The latest in this form of initiative is the Heritage Economic




Regeneration Scheme (HERS), and this succeeds the area partnerships. The schemes will give more emphasis to economic and community regeneration as well as physical improvements and provide £15 million over three years from 1998. The idea is to concentrate on neighbourhood businesses, high streets, and corner shops, and ‘where areas based assistance through building repair and enhancement will tip the balance in favour of continued local employment, new homes and inward investment’.


The UNESCO World Heritage Convention established a World Heritage List of sites that UN member states are pledged to protect. The eighteen sites within UK jurisdiction (of the 582 world-wide) are listed in Box 8.2. In 2000 the UK updated its ‘tentative list’ of sites that may be nominated for the world heritage status over the next five to ten years.30 The tentative list is a requirement of the committee that oversees designation. The committee had expressed the wish to consider further natural and industrial sites to provide a better balance with the large number of architectural sites. Thus the current UK tentative list of twenty-five sites includes, for example, the Lake District, the New Forest, Shakespeare’s Stratford, and the Mount Stewart Gardens, Northern Ireland. Six of the twenty-five have already been nominated. The inclusion of a site on the World Heritage List carries no additional statutory controls, though of course it underlines its outstanding importance. This is a relevant material consideration in planning control. Local planning policies should, in the words of PPG 15, ‘reflect the fact that all these sites have been designated for their outstanding universal value, and they should place great weight on the need to protect them for the benefit of future generations as well as our own’. Significant development proposals affecting a world heritage site generally require an environmental assessment. This has not protected sites in the UK from the pressure of new development – even Stonehenge. The world heritage committee now requires a management plan for all listed sites, and

English Nature published in 2000 The Stonehenge World Heritage Site Management Plan.

H I S T O R I C P A R K S A N D G A R D E N S 31

The 5,000 or more public parks in the UK have played an important role in quality of life in towns and cities, and many have great historical and landscape significance. But their quality is generally deteriorating – lamentably so. The neglect of public parks is one manifestation of the general decline in local authority services, but it also reflects changing social needs and behaviour. There is no statutory duty on local authorities to provide or maintain parks and open spaces. Indeed, there seem to be no clear responsibilities in relation to parks. The Urban Parks Forum claims that neither the DETR nor DCMS has recognised the problem, and the lack of even basic statistics on the amount of parkland and its quality would seem to bear that out. But Britain boasts some of the finest historical parks in the world. Most, other than the royal parks, are in private ownership or under the management of the National Trust and other charitable organisations.32 The eight royal parks are managed by an executive agency of the DCMS, the Royal Parks Agency, with a budget of £20 million. A Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England is compiled by English Heritage, in county volumes.33 The Register uses a grading system similar to that for listed buildings with grades I, II*, and II, but unlike for listed buildings, there are no additional consents required. Given that the Register is still a recent innovation, it may be that statutory controls will be imposed in the future (Pendlebury 1999). In the meantime, the Register is a material consideration in development control, and planning authorities must consult English Heritage on applications likely to affect Grade I or II* parks and gardens; and consult the Garden History Society on development that may affect any site on the register. There are about 1,200 sites on the Register, 120 of which are urban parks.34 A review is under way, to be completed by 2002, but English Heritage expects this to result in only an additional 100 urban park designations.




Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast Ironbridge Gorge Stonehenge, Avebury and associated sites Durham Castle and Cathedral Fountains Abbey and St Mary’s, Studley Royal The castles and town walls of Edward I in Gwynedd St Kilda


Blenheim Palace City of Bath Hadrian’s Wall Military Zone Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey and St Margaret’s Church


Henderson Island (Pitcairn Islands) Tower of London Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine’s Abbey, and St Martin’s Church


Edinburgh Old and New Towns Gough Island Wildlife Reserve (St Helena Islands)


Maritime Greenwich


The heart of Neolithic Orkney

Current nominations: Blaenavon industrial landscape in south Wales Town of St George, Bermuda Derwent Valley Mills, Derbyshire Saltaire, West Yorkshire Dorset and east Devon coast New Lanark, Scotland Ironically, the poor condition of many parks may be a reason why they do not appear on the register and thus miss out on the benefits that the register might give.


The situation regarding ‘ecclesiastical buildings’ is exceptional and also complicated. In essence, there is what is technically termed ‘the ecclesiastical exemption’ from listed building and conservation area

controls. The exemption may apply to many buildings: the Church of England alone has more than 16,700 churches.35 The Church introduced measures to control demolition more than seven hundred years ago, and has been regularly inspecting churches for three hundred years. It spends a large amount each year on the upkeep and maintenance of its buildings (mainly funded by its congregations). The result is that ‘a listed Church of England church has a chance of avoiding demolition nearly three times better than a listed secular building’.




There are two parallel statutory systems of control over Church of England churches: the Church’s system and the secular system. The Church’s system is much stricter and more comprehensive. It involves regular inspection of every church, and embraces not only the fabric of the buildings, but their contents and churchyards. There are two separate statutory procedures applying to parish churches (whether listed or unlisted), according to whether they are in use or redundant. Churches in use are subject to a system of inspection and reporting at the local level, and to monitoring at higher levels: by Diocesan Advisory Committees at diocesan level, and by the Council for the Care of Churches at the national level. Redundant churches are safeguarded by the Pastoral Measure 1983, which provides procedures for deciding whether a church is still required for worship, and, if not, what the future of the building should be. The Churches Conservation Trust (formerly the Redundant Churches Fund) finances the management, maintenance, and repair of churches judged of sufficient architectural or historic importance. The fund receives 70 per cent of its funds from the DCMS and the remainder from the Church Commissioners, and in 1999 had 300 redundant churches in its care. Until recently, cathedrals were outside any planning procedure and, despite their huge popularity with visitors (and contribution to tourism), were not eligible for grant aid. A separate system of controls over building works was introduced by the Care of Churches Measure 1990. This is administered by the individual cathedrals jointly with a Cathedrals Fabric Commission in consultation with English Heritage, which also provides grant aid. All church buildings are subject to normal planning control over, for example, changes of use and significant alterations. They are also listed in exactly the same way as other buildings of special historic or architectural interest. However, because of the Church’s separate statutory procedure, listed building consent is not required for churches where the primary use is as a place of worship. Such consent is required, however, for alterations to redundant churches, though not if demolition is carried out pursuant to a scheme under the Pastoral Measure 1983.

A government review of the ecclesiastical exemption completed at the beginning of 1993 led to a decision to extend it to churches of all denominations where an acceptable system of control operates on principles set out in a code of practice.36 The 1994 Ecclesiastical Exemption Order revoked the exemption for religious bodies that had not adopted their own regulation systems. For those that have, it temporarily extended exemption to other buildings within the Churches’ estates, but this too will be revoked unless the Churches introduce their own controls over such buildings. In 1999 the Church of England adopted the Care of Places of Worship Measure, which empowers the Council for the Care of Churches to compile a list of the other buildings used for purposes of the Church (such as school and college chapels) that it wishes to fall within the protection of the Church. At some point the ecclesiastical exemption will be removed for those religious bodies that have not been included within a ‘self-regulatory regime’.


Following the outcry over the controversial sale of the assets of the Mentmore estate in 1977, a National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) was established by the National Heritage Act of 1980. This is dedicated as ‘a memorial to those who have died for the United Kingdom’.37 The Fund gives financial assistance ‘towards the cost of acquiring, maintaining or preserving land, buildings, works of art and other objects of outstanding interest which are also of importance to the national heritage’. It is doing an important job in preventing heritage assets from being exported. But given the value of some assets it is a relatively small fund. During 1999-2000 it made grants worth £2.7 million in respect of eleven items.38 In addition to normal Exchequer payments into the fund, further payments can be made in relation to property accepted in satisfaction of tax debts. The NHMF now also distributes the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The scale of conservation work made possible by the Lottery was probably not imagined ten


years ago. The HLF allocated £148 million in 1,872 grants in 1999–2000.39 As the chairman of the Fund has said, ‘every age needs its patrons and the private patronage on which we have largely relied in this country is now vigorously supported (but happily not supplanted) by lottery money’ (HLF and NHMF Annual Report 1999–2000: 2). The HLF now has four general priorities: conservation; national heritage; local heritage; and access and education. Its formal aim reflects current concerns with equal access and sustainability. It is: to improve quality of life by safeguarding and enhancing the heritage of buildings, objects and the environment, whether man-made or natural, which have been important in formation of the character and identity of the United Kingdom, in a way which will encourage more sections of society to appreciate and enjoy their heritage and enable them to hand it on in good heart to future generations. (HLF and NHMF Corporate Plan, 2000)

It is difficult to do justice here to the range of projects that have received a contribution from the HLF, since its impact is so pervasive. The betterknown projects include the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich, the American Air Museum at Duxford, St George’s Market in Belfast, Robert Owen’s school in New Lanark (part of the world heritage site), and the Big Pit Mining Museum, Blaenafon (the National Mining Museum for Wales). Planning authorities have been important players in both large and small projects as initiator and sometimes co-funder. Of particular interest is the townscape heritage initiative. This provides small grants towards heritage scheme feasibility studies, and more substantial funding to improve the vitality of many towns, some of which are not traditionally seen as heritage centres. After early criticism about elitism and unequal distribution of funding across the country, the HLF now strongly emphasises the need for funded projects to deliver wider public benefits, for example through economic regeneration and social inclusion. There are more small-scale ‘community grants’, providing a simpler application process. They have contributed £3.9 million in 1,284 awards in 1999–2000. Regional

offices have been set up in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and the English regions. A special study is under way to examine how the regeneration of coalfield communities may be supported (they have done badly in the distribution of funds so far). Another study is looking at the needs of urban parks (discussed on p. 224.40 Lottery funding aside, it should not be forgotten that some local authorities and many voluntary organisations have a long-standing record of funding conservation. Also, in England there is a relatively small (£546,000 in 1999–2000) fund now administered by English Heritage for innovatory or experimental projects that contribute to government’s objectives for the heritage. Projects have been funded involving new records of the historic environment, promoting access, and improving management practice. The fund supported the Civic Trust’s Heritage Open Days initiative.


Trees are a delight in themselves; they also have the remarkable quality of hiding developments which are best out of sight. Trees are clearly, so far as town and country planning is concerned, a matter of amenity. Indeed, the powers which local authorities have with regard to trees can be exercised only if it is ‘expedient in the interests of amenity’. Where a local authority is satisfied that it is expedient, it can make a tree preservation order (TPO) applicable to trees, groups of trees, woodlands, and trees planted as a result of a planning condition. Such an order can prohibit the cutting down, topping, or lopping of trees except with the consent of the local planning authority.41 Orders are made according to a model given in the Regulations. People affected must be consulted and the planning authority must consider all objections and other comments before confirming the TPO. Subsequently any proposals to cut or lop the protected trees need consent from the planning authority. In conservation areas, trees otherwise not protected by TPOs are also subject to a special regime. The




planning authority must be given six weeks’ notice of any works, during which it can consider the need for a TPO. Mere preservation, however, can lead eventually to decay and thus defeats its object. To prevent this, a local authority can make replanting obligatory when it gives permission for trees to be felled. The aim is to avoid any clash between good forestry and the claims of amenity. But the timber of woodlands or orchards always has a claim to be treated as a commercial crop, and though the making of a tree preservation order does not necessarily involve the owner in any financial loss (isolated trees or groups of trees are usually planted expressly as an amenity), there are occasions when it does. Yet though woodlands are primarily a timber crop from which the owner is entitled to benefit, two principles have been laid down which qualify this. First, the national interest demands that woodlands should be managed in accordance with the principles of good forestry; and second, where they are of amenity value, the owner has a public duty to act with reasonable regard for amenity aspects. It follows that a refusal to permit felling or the imposition of conditions on operations which are either contrary to the principles of good forestry or destructive of amenity ought not to carry any compensation rights. But where there is a clash between these two principles, compensation is payable. Thus, in a case where the principles of good forestry dictate that felling should take place, but this would result in too great a sacrifice of amenity, the owner can claim compensation for the loss which he or she suffers. Normally, a compromise is reached whereby the felling is deferred or phased. The commercial felling of timber is subject to a licence by the Forestry Commission. Planning powers go considerably further than simply enabling local authorities to preserve trees. Planning permission can be made subject to the condition that trees are planted, and local authorities themselves have power to plant trees on any land in their area. With the increasing vulnerability of trees and woodlands to urban development and the needs of modern farming, wider powers and more Exchequer aid have been provided by successive statutes. Local

planning authorities are now required to ensure that conditions (preferably reinforced by tree preservation orders) are imposed for the protection of existing trees and for the planting of new ones. In 1994 the DoE reviewed the TPO system and then consulted on new regulations to overcome certain anomalies. Following the change in administration in 1997, the proposals were put on hold until 1998, when a further consultation paper was published. New regulations were made in 1999.42 The changes are generally quite minor and relate to the simplification of the model order by which TPOs are made: maps, inspection, and clarification of the exemptions afforded to statutory undertakers following the wave of privatisation. Guidelines were published in 1995 on consultation between statutory undertakers and planning authorities, and a code of practice is proposed. Local authorities can undertake work on trees on any land, which obviously puts considerable onus on their internal consultation processes between, say, the planning officers and those who undertake the work. New legislation is proposed to amend the provisions further, mainly in relation to offences committed in damaging protected trees. A different approach has been taken to the protection of ‘important hedgerows’, which, because of devastating losses, have been given protection through Regulations made in 1997 (see also Chapter 9).43 The Regulations apply only to hedgerows with a continuous length of 20 m or more and which meet another hedgerow at either end. They need to be growing on, or adjacent to, common land, protected land, or land used for agriculture, forestry, or for keeping horses, etc. The Regulations do not apply to hedgerows around houses. If all these conditions are satisfied, before removing a hedgerow the owner must notify the planning authority, which, if it wants the hedge retained, has forty-two days to serve a ‘hedgerow retention notice’. But the planning authority can do this only for an ‘important hedgerow’, which means it must have been in existence for thirty years or more and have some archaeological, historical, wildlife, or landscape qualities.


Heritage is an important factor in tourism. Together with ‘culture’ and the countryside, heritage stimulates about two-thirds of the visits made by foreign tourists. (They certainly do not come to enjoy the weather!) Heritage attractions are also the most important reason that domestic tourists give for having made their visit within the UK.44 Since tourism plays a very significant role in economic prosperity, it follows that heritage is very important in Britain’s economy, and, of course, in the perception of Britain that many visitors gain. But over the past twenty years, the UK’s share of world tourism has generally declined (although there has been some improvement since 1994).45 There is an abundance of figures that demonstrate the impact of tourism.46 There is, however, a big downside: tourism can lead to excessive wear and tear on the fabric of buildings, to congestion, to litter, and even to open hostility by residents to visitors. The generally accepted implication is that tourism has to be ‘managed’. Several organisations are now devoted to this: the Historic Towns Tourism Management Group, the Heritage Cities Association (a marketing consortium), and the English Historic Towns Forum. A concern for ‘vital and viable town centres’ has grown, and other specialist bodies have been established, such as the Association of Town Centre Management. That tourism, as well as heritage, is a matter of importance for local planning authorities is selfevident. However, it is not a policy area which can be isolated from related ones. It is interesting to note that the PPG on tourism (PPG 21) refers to a long list of other relevant PPGs. This list is an eloquent testimony to the interconnectedness of planning issues; and it also points to the inherent difficulty of reconciling numerous considerations – or even giving adequate consideration to all of them. Responsibilities for tourism, like most of government, have shifted over recent years with a view to addressing the ‘untidy structure’ for tourism and its linkages with the heritage.47 The creation of the DNH, now DCMS, brought together tourism and heritage from six departments. The Scottish Executive and the Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies have

responsibilities for tourism and fund ‘national tourist boards’. The British Tourist Authority (BTA) advises government on issues that affect the UK as a whole. The English Tourism Council (ETC) was created in 1999 (as successor to the English Tourist Board) in an attempt to provide a more strategic body to take forward a national tourism strategy with less direct involvement in implementation, which is now concentrated in the English regional tourist boards (RTBs). The RTBs are limited companies funded by ETC and other sponsors and commercial sources.48 Local authorities also promote and manage tourism, and this is particularly important in the heritage towns. The 1997 Labour government established a Tourism Forum which contributed to a major review of government policy for tourism. The results were published in the 1999 DCMS Report Tomorrow’s Tourism, and similar reviews are under way elsewhere in the UK.49 The reports have the same emphasis on promoting tourism for its economic and regeneration potential. In particular, there is a need to ensure that the tourism industry in the UK performs at a similar rate to its competitors, since it is losing ground. An action programme was produced for England, and later discussed at a national tourism summit. Of particular relevance for planning are action points to provide a sustainable blueprint for tourism to safeguard the countryside and heritage; to encourage more integrated promotion of the heritage; to develop niche markets in such areas as ‘film tourism’ so as to ‘unlock the potential of Britain’s unique cultural and natural heritage’; and to encourage regeneration of traditional tourist resorts. As with all matters concerning sustainability there is more than a hint of contradiction in the action points. On the one hand, business and economic priorities mean that the heritage has to earn a return on the public funds invested. On the other hand, there is a need to preserve the integrity of the properties and places visited. The relevant documents all note this problem, and much needs to be addressed in tourism management at the local level. It is well recognised that the presentation and management of historic properties cannot be a purely commercial operation.




In any case, too great a success in attracting custom could place unsustainable pressures on the very experience which the customers are seeking. For example, marketing efforts have helped to increase visitor numbers at historic houses from 3 million in 1970 to nearer 11 million at the end of the 1990s. But ‘it has been estimated that the wear and tear due to visitors in one year exceeds the previous domestic wear and tear of two decades and in some cases up to a whole century’ (Lloyd 1999: 1).50 The ETC has taken a lead role on the idea of ‘sustainable tourism’ and has created a Sustainable Task Force (sic). A report, Sustainable Tourism: An Action Plan, is proposed for 2001. Unfortunately, the ETC’s ‘vision for sustainable tourism’ hardly touches on the concept of sustainability. It reads: ‘England will promote and develop tourism that exceeds visitor expectations, ensures the long term viability of the industry, benefits local communities and helps to protect and enhance the places in which it takes place.’51 Some critics have been very outspoken about socalled ‘sustainable tourism’. Croall (1995) presents strong arguments for greater protection of the environment against the effects of tourism. An even stronger case is made by Minhinnick (1993), who argues that ‘the idea of making tourism an environmentally sustainable activity is at best an exciting pipe-dream and at worst a deceit’. This elegantly written essay is

BOX 8.3

merciless in its criticisms: ‘the trouble with tourism is that moderation is not part of its language’; ‘local distinctiveness is erased and replaced by mediocre uniformity’. Though these fundamental conflicts barely figure in official reports, there are lots of practical suggestions, but these are predominantly concerned with minimising environmental impacts. The 1998 consultation on the national sustainability strategy included a paper entitled Tourism: Towards Sustainability which considers some of the issues. These include the potential of tourism to benefit local communities, the need to manage visitor flows, the transport impacts, and planning. Indeed, planning figures very prominently in the responses to this consultation paper, particularly the need to amend planning guidance to ensure that tourism development meets sustainability criteria; and to strengthen plans and development control powers to ensure that tourism investment is concentrated where it can do most benefit for regeneration and least damage. But much of the agenda for tourism is no more than the agenda for everyone else: better strategic coordination of policy through planning, closer integration of transport modes, quality public transport, opportunities for cycling and walking, effective reuse and renewal of the heritage, and the need to find a way to spread tourism and its benefits beyond the mainstream ‘honeypots’ and out to the regions.


25.5 million overseas visitors came to the UK UK residents took 122 million trips of one night or more in the UK Overseas tourists spent about £13 billion in the UK Expenditure on travel to British operators was £3.3 billion Total expenditure on tourism is £61 billion Employment in tourism is about 18 million There are 125,000 tourism businesses

The share of GDP attributable to tourism is 6 per cent Over fifty historic towns attract over 20,000 overseas overnight visitors Six historic towns receive over 150,000 overseas overnight visitors The government provides almost £100 million grant to the tourist boards UK visitors abroad spent £8.2 billion more than overseas visitors spent in the UK


In November 1999 the government announced its intention to carry out a systematic review of policy for the historic environment in England, led by the DETR and DCMS. Early in 2000, English Heritage was instructed to undertake stage 1: a review of current policies in consultation with all interests. The terms of reference for the review were restrictive: the principles of PPG 15 were to stay in place, resources would remain much the same, and there would be no major structural reorganisation of responsibilities. The review was to consider in particular the relationship between heritage and tourism and the roles of the numerous bodies involved in conservation. In addition, English Heritage was asked to review the condition of the historic environment, the need for dealing with heritage at risk, possible simplification of the procedures, and connections with urban regeneration and emerging policy on sustainable development. The report, Power of Place, was published at the end of 2000, as a step towards a strategy for the historic environment in England. The report’s many recommendations are mostly precise and send a strong message about how to strengthen conservation in all areas of public policy. This is to be done by, for example, ensuring that conservation is reflected in all government sectoral policy; ensuring that tax and funding regimes support conservation at least as well as new-build;52 strengthening regulation and powers for designated areas; and improving information and skills. Despite the limitations imposed by the terms of reference, the report makes a strong case for organisational rationalisation: DETR lacks an effective historic environment dimension to wider policy objectives and DCMS has never given the issue the attention or priority it deserves. These problems are in addition to the split responsibility for planning and listed building and other consent procedures. (p. 43)

The theme of getting a more consistent approach to conservation across all arms of government appears also in relation to ensuring that conservation figures in the policies of RDAs and local strategic partnerships.53Another strong theme is the promotion of the

economic value of the historic environment in terms of investment returns (at least when it can be used as offices), job creation, and tourism (‘pound for pound, repair and maintenance create more employment than new-build’). On the role of the planning system, the report notes that designations have been more successful in relation to buildings and monuments than with areas of land: conservation areas, parks and gardens, and battlefields. One area that is lagging behind badly is marine heritage. Of the 34,000 known marine archaeological sites in English territorial waters, only thirty-eight are afforded statutory protection – thus the report argues that the marine heritage should be brought within the remit of English Heritage. The report argues for more systematic evaluation of all buildings and sites that are identified for conservation; and that character appraisal or assessment of historical assets should be normal practice and could form the basis of ‘spatial masterplans’54 for their future development. Similarly, conservation plans should be prepared for historic sites and can provide the basis for management agreements with owners. Capacity studies are also mentioned, especially in relation to tourism impacts. But for all this work, there is a considerable shortfall of relevant skills and qualified staff. Many planning authorities (22 per cent in England) have no staff in the conservation field (which says a lot about some local authority attitudes to the historic environment). Therefore, English Heritage recommends that appropriate performance criteria on heritage management should be included in the Best Value regime (see Chapter 3). The need to improve the information about historic environments, complete records, and provide easier access to them is also given attention. Some recommendations are more challenging, notably that permitted development rights should be withdrawn in all conservation areas. This recommendation and the effective withdrawal of rights of owners is unlikely to be acceptable without significant